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.
80′: FT: Rhinos 20-36 Saints
A blistering start to the second half is what won it for Saints after a double from Taia and Naiqama – the latter secured his hat-trick. Handley and Newman with the Leeds tries. pic.twitter.com/GFrOzxsJDv
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) August 15, 2019
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.