Leeds Rhinos faced a challenging 22-18 defeat against St Helens in the third Betfred Super League encounter of 2023 at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
The match proved to be tightly contested, with Leeds putting up a strong fight. Tries from Rhyse Martin, Sam Walters, and Nene Macdonald showcased their determination. However, Jack Welsby’s two tries in the second half tipped the scales in favour of St Helens, earning them the two crucial league points.
After a week’s break due to the Challenge Cup semi-finals, Leeds Rhinos’ coach Rohan Smith fielded a formidable lineup, unchanged from the recent Hull KR match. Notably, Blake Austin and former Saint James Bentley were also part of the squad.
St Helens, despite missing several forwards due to injury and suspension, managed to include eight players from last year’s Grand Final-winning team. Lewis Dodd continued to impress as part of the unchanged spine alongside Jonny Lomax and Jack Welsby. Konrad Hurrell faced his former club, while new signing Moses Mbye was named on the bench.
Early in the game, St Helens took the lead with a try by Will Hopoate following a well-executed kick by Jack Welsby. Despite missing the conversion, a couple of penalties later, Tommy Makinson added a penalty goal to extend their lead.
Leeds faced difficulty finding a footing in the match. Rhyse Martin’s try came after a clever observation by Blake Austin, exploiting Saints’ defensive gap. However, St Helens responded swiftly, and the first half ended in a 12-12 tie after Tee Ritson’s try for the home side.
Leeds started the second half strong, but Sam Walters’ try was disallowed due to an offside call. St Helens quickly capitalized on the opportunity, and Jack Welsby scored his second try, putting them back in the lead at 16-12.
Throughout the match, Leeds created opportunities but struggled to convert them into points. Nene Macdonald’s crucial try brought them back into contention. However, Jack Welsby’s outstanding performance led to his second try, giving St Helens a comfortable lead.
Leeds attempted a late comeback, and Ash Handley almost found a breakthrough, but Welsby thwarted their efforts, securing the victory for St Helens.
Despite a valiant effort, the Rhinos left Merseyside with a hard-fought defeat against the reigning champions.