LONDON (AFP) – Danny McGuire's late drop-goal put defending Super League champions Leeds into the play-off semi-finals as they sealed an 11-10 win over familiar foes St Helens at Headingley on Friday.
McGuire's kick three minutes from time proved the difference in the preliminary semi-final despite Willie Manu scoring two tries for Saints.
Leeds were in command at 10-0 early in the second period after Kallum Watkins and Joel Moon crossed for tries either side of half-time, with Kevin Sinfield adding one conversion for the home side.
But back came Nathan Brown's Saints and Manu, formerly of the West Tigers in the NRL, grabbed a try double, the second in the 71st minute.
Jordan Turner had converted the first try but his effort after Manu's second score from wide out on the left touchline flashed across the face of the posts to leave the scores level.
Jon Wilkin then missed a drop-goal for the visitors that would have put them in front and Leeds marched up the other end to create their own opportunity in the 77th minute.
All eyes in the stadium were on Sinfield but instead the captain moved the ball on wider to McGuire and the England international, who has had a miserable season with injury, kept his nerve to slot the winning one-pointer.
Saints had three minutes to respond but the Rhinos held firm and Brown's side couldn't create any meaningful field position before the final hooter sounded.
Thursday's first preliminary semi-final was nothing like as close an encounter as Huddersfield proved they are back to their very best with a record-breaking 76-18 win over Hull FC.
The Giants ran in 13 tries, nine of them in the first half at the John Smith's Stadium to bounce back in sensational style from their opening play-off defeat by Wigan.
Luke Robinson touched down four times for the hosts, all before half-time, as Hull were condemned to the worst opening 40 minutes in the club's 148-year history.
They trailed 54-6 at half-time and there were four more tries to come after the break as Leroy Cudjoe, Shaun Lunt and Scott Grix all finished with doubles.
Stand-off Danny Brough was also at his imperious best as he slotted 12 of 13 conversions, a timely reminder before the final vote for the Man of Steel award is decided.
The Scotland international broke Ben Gronow's Huddersfield record of 147 goals in a season, set back in 1919/2, and overtook the 332 total points scored by Pat Devery in 1952/53.
Tom Briscoe, on his final appearance for Hull, grabbed a couple of consolation tries that restored some pride, taking his total to 90 for the club, as Danny Tickle added both goals.
But the Giants were not done there, with Brett Ferres and Craig Kopczak both going over in the closing stages to round off a memorable night for the winners of the League Leader's Shield.