WHILE St Helens celebrated a third successive League Leaders’ Shield, fresh doubts were cast over Leeds’ title aspirations.
Saints savoured a 36-16 win over faltering Warrington at Knowsley Road and then discovered it was enough to guarantee them top spot, courtesy of the Rhinos’ shock 17-6 home defeat by Hull.
Leeds, who faded badly after taking a 6-0 lead, cannot now catch Saints and need a point from their final match of the regular season against Wakefield next Friday to hold onto second place.
“We’ve finished top and we’ve deserved to finish top,” said St Helens coach Daniel Anderson.
“We’re just enjoying winning and playing well and we’ve started to find our touch in the last couple of weeks.”
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was among the crowd as Kiwi winger Francis Meli claimed a second hat-trick of the season, while Lee Gilmour, Ade Gardner, James Roby and Leon Pryce were also on the scoresheet.
Depleted Warrington had Great Britain forward Adrian Morley sent off in the 68th minute for a high tackle as they slumped to a third defeat in their last four matches, leaving their play-off hopes hanging by a thread.
Failure to finish in the top six would be nothing short of disastrous for Paul Cullen’s men, who again recruited heavily in the winter but have typically failed to live up to expectations.