Josh Simm runs in hat-trick in St Helens’ Super League demolition of Leeds | Sport

St Helens all but secured their place in the Super League play-offs after a comfortable victory against an under-strength Leeds Rhinos. With the new Challenge Cup holders only five days removed from their success at Wembley against Salford, only four of the side who played last weekend were present here for Richard Agar’s side.

The hosts were much too strong for a young, though spirited, Leeds outfit throughout, with a hat-trick for teenage centre Josh Simm among the seven tries they scored. The victory means a mathematical miracle will now deny the Saints a place in the top four; in contrast, Leeds sit just outside the play-off places following this defeat.

But with this the first of four games in just ten days for the Rhinos, the decision to rest so many key players here, with arguably more winnable fixtures to follow next week, may well prove decisive in the long run.

With Leeds naming such a heavily-rotated side, it was perhaps no surprise that it took only three minutes for a Saints side practically at full-strength to take the lea. The breakthrough came when Simm produced a rapid turn of pace to round Jack Walker from the narrowest of gaps to score his first try for the club. It would not be his last.

By half-time, the 19-year-old had completed a stunning hat-trick and with Zeb Taia also crossing, the hosts were almost out of sight by the break, leading 22-0. Taia’s try came following a superb break from St Helens’ evergreen captain, James Roby, before a fine handling move to the left saw Simm cross for his second.

Leeds were doing little to trouble the Saints at the other end, and in truth, the first half had shades of a training ground exercise for the reigning champions, with it feeling simply a matter of when, rather than if, they put a youthful Rhinos side to bed. They seemingly did so on the stroke of the interval, when a looping pass sent Simm in for his third, with Lachlan Coote converting for 22-0.

Despite the scoreline, Leeds were certainly not short on spirit. And their endeavour was rewarded just after half-time when Cameron Smith forced his way over Coote to open the Rhinos’ account, but that appeared to simply stir the Saints back into life, with three more second-half tries.

First, Theo Fages jinked his way over from close-range, before a stunning long-range play led to Kevin Naiqama crossing on the following set. Leeds claimed another consolation try in the final minutes courtesy of Liam Tindall, but a fine exchange between Aaron Smith and Fages sent the former over in the dying moments.

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