sport

Five-star Rhinos beat Saints

Leeds Rhinos secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup with a 32-12 victory over St Helens at Headingley.

The clash of the two Super League sides went the way of the hosts, Zak Hardaker scoring twice as the Rhinos repelled a spirited Saints comeback to reach the last eight.

Hardaker crossed the whitewash inside the opening five minutes and doubled his tally ahead of the break, before Joel Moon added a third try shortly after the restart to give Leeds breathing space.

Saints responded as Josh Jones added to Adam Swift's first-half score to bring the visitors within eight, but their fight was quashed as Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock put the gloss on a Rhinos victory with their fourth and fifth tries of the match late on.

Leeds full-back Hardaker put the Rhinos in front on four minutes when he managed to successfully ground the ball under pressure.

A well-worked move exposed the Saints defence as they were drawn out of line by the dummy runner, leaving Hardaker a short-range finish before Kevin Sinfield landed the extras from out wide.

The Saints riposte came courtesy of a fine offload from Mark Percival, who set winger Swift up to score.

After breaking from halfway Sia Soliola released Percival to cut a piercing angle before offloading to Swift, who outpaced Kallum Watkins in a race to the line and Luke Walsh added the conversion.

The Rhinos restored their six-point lead before the interval as Ryan Hall beat two defenders and released Hardaker, who spun away from Jones for his second try, which Sinfield duly converted.

When Moon was given a nudge at the play-of-the-ball, Leeds extended their advantage with Sinfield slotting his third goal from the left flank.

Brian McDermott's side tightened their grip on the tie when centre Moon crashed over for their third try.

The ball was shifted from Sinfield to Carl Ablett before Moon eventually forced his way over the line and the Rhinos captain maintained a blemish-free record from the kicking tee.

However, Saints refused to lie down and their hope was briefly renewed when Jones went in for their second try of the afternoon.

On the back of two penalties, Jones took advantage of a rare moment of weak defence from Leeds to go in under the posts. Walsh added the extras.

Rhinos stand-off McGuire ended Saints' challenge seven minutes from time as he started and finished a flowing Leeds move which saw Watkins burst through tackles from Percival and Swift.

Peacock rounded off a convincing victory for the Rhinos when he barged over from close range and Sinfield maintained his perfect day with the boot, slotting home a sixth successful strike.