The Debrief: St Helens show their mettle, Lachlan Miller brilliance, Leeds Rhinos’ wasteful attack

Ben Olawumi
Jon Bennison

St Helens' Jon Bennison celebrates his try against Leeds Rhinos

St Helens recorded their fourth victory over the campaign with an 18-8 triumph at Headingley against Leeds Rhinos, a game of two halves which certainly warrants the cliché being brought out.

Leeds had led 8-6 at the break, a scoreline which didn’t reflect their domination, but the tables were turned entirely come the restart as the visitors got on top and made it count.

Quickfire tries from Jon Bennison & Moses Mbye sealed the deal, and this is The Debrief.

St Helens show their mettle with strong defensive showing

Rhyse Martin, Joe Batchelor, Alex Walmsley, Morgan Knowles
Leeds Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin is tackled by St Helens’ Joe Batchelor (left), Alex Walmsley (centre) and Morgan Knowles (right)

Not for the first time this season, the Red V‘s efforts in defence meant that they kept the opposition’s tally low, or lower than it could have been.

As we’ve mentioned above, Leeds dominated the first half, but just couldn’t find a way through as often as their performance perhaps warranted.

Luis Roberts‘ opening try ended up being their only one of the night, and Rhyse Martin adding two on to take it out to 8-0 midway through the first half very much felt like the Rhinos trying to put ‘scoreboard pressure’ onto their opponents.

Even after their two tries, Saints still had circa 17 minutes in which they kept Leeds at bay, a real team effort.

Leeds Rhinos’ wasteful attack

Slightly countering the above point, but in a separate point of business we feel is necessary to note down, is the fact that Leeds didn’t help themselves in attack.

When you see as much of the ball as they did, again especially in the first 40, you’ve got to be doing more with it than they did.

The prime example of that for us was when the Rhinos got back-to-back-to-back sets in Saints’ half early on in the second half having forced a couple of goal-line drop-outs.

They couldn’t make it count, and just a few minutes later found themselves behind. The opposite of what happened at Leigh Leopards last week, and something we’re sure Leeds will work on ahead of next week’s Challenge Cup tie against the Saints.

Lachlan Miller brilliance

Lachlan Miller
Leeds Rhinos’ Lachlan Miller proved a thorn in the side of St Helens throughout the Round 5 clash at Headingley

While we’ve highlighted a wasteful attack overall for Leeds, we wanted to pay credit to what was a sensational showing from Lachlan Miller, probably his best performance in a Rhinos shirt so far.

The full-back was electric, and bossed that first 40, consistently making metres having taken the ball close to his own line with some jinking runs.

One of our fellow journalists – James O’Brien – posted on X comparing Miller’s performance to one you’d see in a 7s tournament, and we can’t disagree. Sky Sports put a graphic up post-match with some of the Australian’s stats shown – 137 metres, 113 of those from kick returns and 15 tackle busts. His try-saving tackle on Matty Lees in the first half was pretty good, too!

Miller didn’t go hiding in the second half, but even on top form, he couldn’t provide the spark to take Leeds over when they needed it most.

Lewis Dodd revamped

Saints coach Matty Smith, who forms part of Paul Wellens’ backroom team, gave us an insight into their revamped attack earlier this month.

During his analysis, he honed in on a ‘new role’ for Lewis Dodd, who scooped Sky’s Man of the Match award tonight, and it was plain to see those tweaks to the half-back’s game in action at Headingley.

The Red V’s system now allows Dodd to be a bit more free, and allows him to play off the cuff to a certain extent. Not many are able to play a role like that as well as him on a consistent basis.

Dodd’s kick caused the issues in the Leeds backline which led to Waqa Blake‘s try late on in the first half, and it was the decision from the 22-year-old to play it straight to Jonny Lomax in the second half which opened up the pass out wide for Bennison to go over in the corner. Brilliant stuff from the Widnesian.