St Helens comfortably beat Leeds 36-10 to remain six points above second-placed Warrington in the Super League ladder.
Justin Holbrook made three changes to his St Helens side that thrashed Huddersfield last week. Regan Grace, Dom Peyroux and Matty Lees came in for Adam Swift, Morgan Knowles and Joseph Paulo.
Leeds interim coach Richard Agar also made three changes to his outfit that lost to Wigan last time out. Tui Lolohea, Ash Handley and Cameron Smith were replaced by Jack Walker, Luke Briscoe and Matt Parcell.
Tries from Kevin Naiqama and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook in the first five minutes gave Saints a 12-0 lead at the Totally Wicked Stadium, before Brad Dwyer pulled one back for the Rhinos.
Lachlan Coote and Tommy Makinson then scored to give St Helens a 24-6 lead at half-time.
Luke Briscoe brought the Rhinos back into the game early in the second half, but the game already looked done and dusted at the break.
Leeds forward James Donaldson was sin-binned towards the end of the game after committing a professional foul.
McCarthy-Scarsbrook and James Bentley went over late on to gift Saints a 36-10 victory as they enjoy a six-point cushion on Warrington at the top of the table.
Three talking points
St Helens forward pack first class
Collectively, has there been a better forward pack in the Super League era than this current St Helens pack? There is certainly a debate to be had, but Saints’ pack surely must be up there.
Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson are world class forwards. Thompson has been rumoured with a move to the NRL recently, while Walmsley has linked with a switch Down Under previously and it’s not difficult to see why.
And in the back-row, Taia is playing the best rugby he ever has. He might be 34, but there is still plenty of fuel left in his tank. Young forwards Matty Lees and Jack Ashworth have the potential to become legends in the Red V, too.
Leeds missing a half-back
It’s clear to see that Leeds are just missing a playmaker, or maybe even two. It’s no secret that the Rhinos have been desperately searching for a half-back over this year, and they need one sooner rather than later.
They made a move to bring Danny McGuire back to Emerald Headingley a couple of months ago from Hull KR and have also made attempts to sign Castleford talisman Luke Gale.
The Rhinos are also understood to be after Salford fan favourite Jackson Hastings – but they really need to make a signing. They need someone who can guide them around the park and let Richie Myler be the support player he is, rather than the organiser.
Lomax an underrated player
Everyone knows Jonny Lomax is good – but not a lot of people realise just how good he is. The England international has been one of the best players in Super League this year, along with the likes of Coote, Blake Austin, Jackson Hastings and David Fifita.
In his first press conference as Great Britain coach on Tuesday, Wayne Bennett said: “Jonny Lomax never fails to amaze me. He can play in so many positions now, he’s a real footballer.
“There isn’t one England player that wouldn’t turn up in the NRL competition. They just don’t get the credit they deserve.”
Bennett is bang on the money with his comments on Lomax. He is a superb player and an underrated one, for sure. He could be a very important player for the Lions this autumn.
Line-ups and ratings
St Helens: Coote (8); Makinson (7), Naiqama (9), Percival (8), Grace (7); Lomax (9), Fages (8); Walmsley (8), Smith (8), Thompson (8), Taia (7), Peyroux (7), McCarthy-Scarsbrook (7). Subs: Amor (7), Ashworth (7), Lees (7), Bentley (7).
Tries: Naiqama, McCarthy-Scarsbrook (2), Coote, Makinson, Bentley Goals: Coote 6/6
Leeds: Walker (6); T Briscoe (7), Newman (7), Hurrell (7), L Briscoe (7); Sutcliffe (5), Myler (5); Seumanufagai (6), Dwyer (7), Singleton (6), Ferres (6), Watkins (6), Merrin (6). Subs: Parcell (6), Donaldson (5), Oledzki (7), Cuthbertson (7).
Tries: Dwyer, L Briscoe Goals: Sutcliffe 1/2
I’ve said it time and time again this season but St Helens are head and shoulders above every other team in Super League at the moment.
I honestly can’t see many teams stopping Saints’ march for the treble this season – but I also thought something similar this time last year, so we’ll see about that. What I will say in confidence though is that they will win one major trophy at least this term.
As for Leeds, they really, really need a half-back and someone who guide them around the park. They are lacking communication at the minute and they are crying out for a playmaker. I’ve got a feeling we’ll see one at the Rhinos before the season’s end.
Elsewhere in Super League
Salford 26-16 Castleford
Warrington 30-6 Wakefield
Huddersfield 22-38 Wigan