Kevin Naiqama scored a hat-trick as Super League leaders St Helens prepared for the Challenge Cup final with a 36-20 victory over Leeds Rhinos.

Saints made it four successive victories in all competitions, a 26-point haul in the space of 23 second-half minutes taking the game away from the home side at Headingley.

Leeds – sporting the logo of the Samaritans charity on their jerseys – had started strongly having come into the fixture off the back of two straight wins, Ash Handley going agonisingly close to an early opener.

But Saints struck the first blow – Jack Welsby forcing a fumble high upfield before teeing up Regan Grace.

Saints’ lead did not last long, Richie Myler displaying a crisp turn of pace to charge through the visitors’ defence, with Leeds hitting the front when Handley dived over in the corner.

Naiqama levelled things up at 10-10 heading into the interval and Saints did not look back after the restart.

A defensive mix-up from Leeds allowed Zeb Taia to ground a loose ball, with a lengthy check with the video referee confirming the try, before the Saints second-rower doubled his tally moments later. 

Naiqama added another and, four minutes later, had his hat-trick – breezing through Leeds’ defence following fine build-up play involving youngster Welsby.

Handley grabbed a second try with seven minutes remaining and, though the game was already lost, Leeds – who sit four points above bottom club London Broncos in the table – had the final say when Luke Briscoe set up Harry Newman with a brilliant offload.