Super League: Leeds Rhinos 22-30 St Helens
Leeds (16) 22
- Tries: Watkins, Moon, Burrow, Bailey
- Goals: Sinfield 3
St Helens (12) 30
- Tries: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Makinson 2, Laffranchi, Thompson
- Goals: Makinson 3
St Helens bounced back from 16-0 down after 23 minutes to earn victory against champions Leeds Rhinos and end a five-match winless run.
Leeds led 16-12 at half-time with Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon and Rob Burrow tries, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Sia Soliola replying for Saints.
Saints showed their mettle after the break through Tommy Makinson [two], Anthony Laffranchi and Luke Thompson.
Ryan Bailey's score was in vain as Leeds failed to recover.
Makinson also kicked three goals, with Sinfield also landing three.
Saints's record at Headingley has been excellent in recent seasons, notably last season when the Rhinos in blue and amber were left red-faced by Mike Rush's side, and Nathan Brown's current line-up showed character and steel to follow in their footsteps after a shocking start.
Battered and brusied
Leeds - already without Jamie Peacock and Carl Ablett for eight weeks - saw Ryan Bailey bandaged up with a head wound, while Brett Delaney was withdrawn with a shoulder injury.
Saints saw hooker Stuart Howarth patched up with a similar head wound
Brian McDermott's side were unbeaten in seven Super League matches going into the game but have now lost twice on the bounce after their Challenge Cup exit by Huddersfield last week.
The visitors were masters of their own downfall in the early stages, conceding a string of penalties that allowed Leeds to establish a foothold in the game.
Sloppy handling from Makinson and teenage prop Luke Thompson handed over penalties, and the hosts took advantage when slick handling by Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Zak Hardaker played in Watkins for his eighth of the season.
Sinfield's touchfinder from another Leeds penalty for Saints indiscipline saw Burrow and McGuire combine for Moon's score, the Australian centre stretching out an arm to score.
Burrow's first Super League score of the season came from repeat sets in the Saints half, the hooker slipping in from dummy-half to penalise weak defence.
Leeds looked well in control with the first quarter of the game complete, but Nathan Brown's side showed character to roar back into the game with two unanswered tries at the end of the half.
The first came when the defence was softened by drives from Alex Walmsley and Tony Puletua before a clever disguised pass from Howarth found McCarthy-Scarsbrook's line to score.
Howarth was also heavily involved for the second, prompting from acting half-back and linked up with Wilkin to tee up Soliola who scampered in to pull Saints within four points at the hooter.
Having finished the half the stronger, and addressed earlier disciplinary issues, Saints ripped into the Rhinos in a second half that ebbed and flowed at a punishing pace.
Willie Manu tied up the Rhinos defence before offloading to Percival, and the centre showed composure and pace to slip the ball to the supporting Makinson.
Laffranchi took advantage of Leeds' wild attempt to run the ball from a deep kick in goal, snaffling Hardaker's spilled attempt to ground the ball in-field and avoid the drop-out to score.
Makinson got his second when he dived onto a loose ball to extend the lead, but Bailey's steamrollering run onto Burrow's dummy-half pass, added to Sinfield's conversion set-up a searing last 20 minutes.
McGuire's awkwardly swirling ball was touched down in goal by Makinson to force a Saints drop-out but Wellens smothered the ball on the last from the responding set to keep Leeds at bay.
The last word went to Thompson, who showed pace and power to touchdown and cap a thrilling win for the Red Vee.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Leeds coach Brian McDermott:
"We were in command but that was never the game so early. I was never feeling comfortable at 16-0.
"I'm not sat scratching my head wondering how we lost. We missed too many soft tackles at crucial times and it gave them a bit of momentum.
"Take away a couple of blunders near our try-line and it's more of a tighter scoreline."
St Helens coach Nathan Brown:
"Hopefully this is the start of a good summer period for us. We fought really well and we should get a lot of confidence out of tonight.
"I expected us to play well tonight. I didn't necessarily expect us to win but I expected a good performance.
"The first 20 minutes were disappointing and I wasn't sure where we were heading but in the last 60 we did really well. To come from 16-0 down against a good side like Leeds, you've got to credit to the guys."
Leeds: Hardaker; Vickery, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Burrow, Bailey, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Clarkson.
Substitutes: Kirke, Moore, Sutcliffe, Achurch
St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Turner, Percival, Makinson; Ashe, Wilkin; Perry, Howarth, Thompson, Soliola, Manu, McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
Substitutes: Puletua, Laffranchi, Jones, Walmsley
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)