LEIGH'S bid for a first win on St Helens soil for 41 years ended in a 22-12 defeat but Adrian Lam’s side played its part in an epic battle at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

And momentarily late in the second half Leopards believed they were on course to make history.

Instead, what would have been an equalising Tom Briscoe try was disallowed for Joe Mellor’s knock on.

Relieved to still be leading 16-12 Saints finished on a high as Joe Batchelor scored his team’s fourth try.

Leopards’ victory charge also wasn’t helped when they went down to 12-men due to Gareth O’Brien’s green card after 69 minutes for staying down in the tackle.

Saints win-their seventh in a row since losing to Leigh in the Challenge Cup semi-final, drew them level with leaders Catalans Dragons Leopards stay fourth and will now relegate Wakefield if they beat Trinity at Leigh Sports Village next Friday.

It may have been a third defeat in four games but Leopards played their part in a contest that would have graced the play-offs.

Leigh kicked off with Lachlan Lam as captain for the first time in his Leopards career but without John Asiata and Super League’s leading try scorer, Josh Charnley.

Saints started like they intent on avoiding a third defeat to Adrian Lam’s side this season.

But the visitors soaked up early pressure and fashioned a brilliant riposte to take a ninth minute lead.

Lam and O’Brien linked up and Oliver Gildart enjoyed an easy finish for his first try of his short-term deal . Ben Reynolds goaled and twice had Saints back pedalling with raking kicks.

But Saints clicked into fear to draw level with an equally spectacular try. Mark Percival’s superb offload to Tommy Makinson on halfway set the winger in motion with Lomax and Bachelor also on the ball before the latter’s suspiciously forward pass was finished by Makinson.

It wasn’t a game for the feint hearted and simmering tension erupted when Tom Amone was caught by Percival though the resulting penalty was awarded for offside.

Former Leigh loanee James Bell then scythed down Amone; cue raucous approval from a hyper home crowd.

Saints laid siege in the closing 10 minutes of the first half but Leigh’s defence repelled all raids, including a powerful run from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook in the last seconds.

A successful head assessment saw Zak Hardaker’s return for the second half. And the former Man of Steel almost found a way over after 47 minutes as Leopards started the third quarter on the front foot.

But O’Brien’s loose pass to Briscoe lost the momentum and Saints broke away to take the lead for the first time.

O’Brien fumbled Lewis Dodd’s steepling kick, James Roby picked up the loose ball and Makinson did the rest. Percival nailed a testing conversion.

Saints were now in the groove and when Reynolds slipped off his tackle Lomax sped through for the home side’s third try. Percival missed his kick.

This Leigh team, however, doesn’t know when it’s beaten. So, when Edwin Ipape bust the tackles to set up Robbie Mulhern for a 64th minute try and Reynolds goaled, Leopards were back within four.

O’Brien’s green card didn’t help but undeterred, Leigh thought they’d levelled when Briscoe seized on a Ben Davies fumble.

Referee Chris Kendall signalled ‘no try’ and video replays showed Joe Mellor had knocked on in the build-up.

Joe Batchelor rounded off Saints’ victory in the 77th minute as Leopards finally ran out of steam.

Teams: St Helens: Welsby; Makinson, Percival, Davies, Bennison; Lomax, Dodd; Lees, Roby, Knowles, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Bell; substitutes: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Royle, Delaney, Mbye.

Tries: Makinson (17, 50), Lomax (58), Batchelor (77).

Goals: Percival 3/4.

Leigh: O’Brien: Briscoe, Hardaker, Chamberlain, Gildart; Reynolds, Lam; Amone, Ipape, Mulhern, O’Donnell, Hughes, Davis; substitutes: Mellor, Wardle, Nakubuwai, Halton.

Tries: Gildart (9), Mulhern (64).

Goals: Reynolds 2/2.

Referee: Chris Kendall.

Half-time: 6-6.

Attendance: 13,420.