England prop forwards Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson powered St Helens to a third-straight win at the start of the Betfred Super League season as they claimed a 27-22 comeback victory at home to Leeds Rhinos.
Leeds looked to have turned the game on its head with a spell of 20 unanswered points to lead 22-10 at half-time but Saints' front-row pair demonstrated exceptional brute force to score three tries between them to pave the way for the win.
In a gripping finish to a thoroughly-entertaining match, Leeds had a try from Tui Lolohea disallowed seven minutes from the end as Saints hung on to maintain their 100 per cent record.
The Rhinos played their part in a cracking contest and will be hoping their enterprising play will be rewarded on their return to a new-look Headingley next Friday after playing their opening four matches away from home.
Saints suffered a major blow within two minutes when star centre Kevin Naiqama went off with a head injury but they were gifted two tries in the first eight minutes.
First Rhinos centre Konrad Hurrell fumbled Theo Fages grubber kick five metres from his own line and the Frenchman re-gathered to force his way over for the opening score.
Then Leeds prop Nathaniel Peteru palmed down Mark Percival's pass close to the line and that enabled stand-off Jonny Lomax to touch down.
Percival added a conversion to make it 10-0 but full-back Jack Walker sparked the fightback when he worked his captain Kallum Watkins over for a 12th-minute try.
Leeds lost loose forward Stevie Ward to a knee injury and Saints had a try disallowed for a ball steal before the visitors stormed in front largely through the efforts of Tongan powerhouse Hurrell.
St Helens back-row forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who was forced into the role of makeshift centre following the loss of Naiqama, was helpless to stop a rampaging Hurrell as the Rhinos drew level after 22 minutes.
Lolohea, clearly benefiting from goalkicking tuition by Kevin Sinfield, added the conversion from the left touchline to edge his side in front, after landing his first from the other side.
Leeds managed to retain possession and put their hosts' defence under enormous pressure, particular through their lethal left edge.
Hurrell and Ash Handley were both denied tries for forward passes but the combination proved clinical after 32 minutes when the big centre worked his winger over for his 11th try in eight games against St Helens.
Lolohea was off target for the first time but he added a third conversion four minutes before half-time after substitute prop Mikolaj Oledzki powered his way over for a close-range try as the visitors established a 12-point advantage.
Whatever coach Justin Holbrook said during the interval did the trick for Saints were a side transformed at the start of the second half, largely down to the efforts of Walmsley.
The big man charged over for his first try since September 2017 from James Roby's inside pass and – three minutes later – swatted off four defenders on a powerful run to the line for his second.
Not to be outdone by his front-row colleague, Thompson made light of the Rhinos' tackling to score an opportunist try after 61 minutes and Lachlan Coote, having taken over the goalkicking duties, extended St Helens' lead to 26-22.
There were chances at both ends but the only other score was a last-minute drop goal from Roby.