SAINTS suffered Grand Final heartbreak once again as Leeds came from behind to win the Grand Final 32-16.
Tries from Tommy Makinson and Michael Shenton plus two goals from Jamie Foster’s boot had given them a 16-8 lead.
But the loss of Paul Wellens and Shenton to injury – as had been the curse all season – put pay to their Championship hopes.
Leeds led 8-2 after pinning Saints back in their own twenty for the majority of the first half.
Royce Simmons’ men had to come off their own line consistently to make any inroads into the Rhinos’ defence.
Both sides exchanged penalties before Rob Burrow produced a moment of class to put side ahead.
In the second half, Saints had a bundle of pressure on Leeds line before Tommy Makinson unlocked the defence with an opportunistic try.
Michael Shenton then sent the fans into raptures and Jamie Foster kicked two penalties to put Saints in charge.
But Brent Webb pulled one back for Leeds to set up a tense finale.
Burrow then combined with Hall to put Leeds ahead before Carl Ablett ended the Championship dream.
Continuity was the name of the game with both sides naming virtually unchanged line-ups from the ones that won through the Semi Finals.
For Saints that meant Gary Wheeler taking the ‘17th’ spot on the bench and Matty Ashurst and Tom Armstrong missing out.
Ali Lauitiiti coming in on the bench for Leeds.
Leeds got the game underway and Tony Puletua was the first to put in a big charge up the field.
But on the Rhinos first set Brent Webb knocked on and Saints were right in striking territory.
Lee Gaskell almost sneaked through and did Jonny Lomax but Brett Delaney cleaned up and galloped 40 yards; the set seeing Leeds force a drop out.
Saints weathered the pressure to end a superb opening four minutes for the neutral.
Both sides then fielded massive high bombs.
Leeds were beginning to offer more in attack though and that meant Saints consistently coming off their own line.
But it was Saints who were first to strike when Jamie Peacock was penalised and Jamie Foster slotted it over.
Kevin Sinfield levelling it up on 26 minutes with a similar penalty.
The deadlock was finally broken when Rob Burrow produced a scampering run from distance to put Leeds ahead.
Sinfield converting with ease.
Saints had a set of six right on Leeds line in the final two minutes of the half, but couldn’t break through some resolute defence.
Half Time: Saints 2 Leeds 8
Saints needed a big half to come away with the Championship and got off to a good start when Jamie Foster’s kick off resulted in a drop out.
They then won another two courtesy of Michael Shenton’s boot.
And finally, after another drop out it looked like Andy Dixon had scored but the video referee ruled he had knocked on.
Saints then knocked on on their next set and that handed the initiative to Leeds – Sinfield just missing with a drop goal attempt.
Tommy Makinson then scored a try out of nothing. A simple grubber looked to be going dead but Brent Webb missed the grounding and Makinson managed to stretch his arm around the full back and out down.
Foster with the extras.
And when Saints came again a massive towering bomb handed them another set of six. From there a superb off the scrum move involving Roby, Lomax and Gaskell saw Shenton get over.
Gaskell then shoed a magnificent 40:20 and Jamie Foster made it 14-8 with 20 minutes to go.
And he made it 16-8 with a massive kick from the half way line.
Try scorer Shenton left the field with what looked like a dislocated elbow and Leeds then went and scored on his side.
Webb putting down under pressure and Sinfield adding the extras.
Sinfield made it 16-16 after Jon Wilkin was penalised for stripping.
It was a major turning point as seconds later Burrow burned down the left to put Ryan Hall over.
Carl Ablett made it safe for Leeds in the final stages – with
The loss of Wellens and Shenton made a massive difference to Saints tonight and once they’d gone, we couldn’t cope. But we have so much to be proud of this season.
Tries: Makinson, Shenton
Goals: Foster (4 from 5)
Tries: Burrow, Webb, Hall, Ablett, Hardaker
Goals: Sinfield (6 from 6)
REF: Phil Bentham
1. Paul Wellens; 28. Tom Makinson, 3. Michael Shenton, 5. Francis Meli, 22. Jamie Foster; 25. Lee Gaskell, 20. Jonny Lomax; 10. James Graham, 9. James Roby, 11. Tony Puletua, 12. Jon Wilkin, 4. Sia Soliola, 16. Paul Clough.
Subs: 14. Scott Moore, 15. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 17. Gary Wheeler, 19. Andrew Dixon.
1. Brent Webb; 23. Ben Jones-Bishop, 27. Zak Hardaker, 12. Carl Ablett, 5. Ryan Hall; 13. Kevin Sinfield, 6. Danny McGuire; 8 Kylie Leuluai, 9. Danny Buderus, 10. Jamie Peacock, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 3. Brett Delaney, 21. Chris Clarkson.
Subs: 7. Rob Burrow, 14. Ali Lauitiiti, 16. Ryan Bailey, 17. Ian Kirke.