St Helens were stunned by a last minute 25-24 defeat to Leeds Rhinos in their first outing at the Totally Wicked Stadium since becoming the World Club Challenge Champions.

In an exhilarating affair, the Grand Final replay saw the lead exchanged multiple times, only for a Blake Austin drop goal with 14 seconds remaining enough to give Leeds their first victory of the season and Saints their first loss under head coach Paul Wellens.

In a cagey opening five minutes, it was evident Leeds were more up to the task than some had expected, keeping the champions at bay. Leeds half-back and player of the match Aidan Sezer troubled the champions all night, and was hit with a high shot by Saints second rower Sione Mata’utia, who was sin binned as a result.

Rhinos centre David Fusitu’a broke around the outside of the 12-man Saints line, finding Richie Myler who passed to Ash Handley to take the opening try of the game.

While Saints struggled at first with a man down, good attacking play from Konrad Hurrell saw them within 10 metres of Leeds’ try-line. Joey Lussick made it count, sneaking in from dummy-half to tie the game.

St Helens were finding their groove, and after a penalty in Leeds territory, Lewis Dodd cleverly stepped and reached to take the lead for Wellens’ side.

Saints were looking to take control until Austin kicked a trademark high kick, getting underneath it to catch the ball. The Australian then kicked it again through to Martin, who superbly caught and finished.

With the scores level Leeds became their own worst enemy, giving the ball away on their own try-line under Saints’ defensive pressure. Dodd jumped on the ball to get his second of the game and retake St Helens’ lead.

Both sides came out the blocks fairly even, until Jack Welsby’s intricate kick found Mark Percival, who collected and looked to have grounded the ball for a try. Upon video referee review, it appeared while Percival didn’t have full control of the ball, another Saints player was obstructed trying to chase Welsby’s kick, meaning a penalty try was given instead to hand Saints a two-score cushion.

Both Tommy Makinson and Martin converted every try for their respective teams, but perhaps decisively Makinson missed a penalty that would’ve seen Saints 26-12 up.

After the game had appeared to settle down, Saints were suddenly down to 12 for the second time of the night, as Curtis Sironen was sent to the sin bin in similar fashion to Mata’utia.

Despite an electric atmosphere from the near sell-out home crowd attempting to pick up their team, the visitors once again took advantage of the extra man, with Cameron Smith crossing the whitewash to bring the game back within six points.

Makinson looked to have responded with a try in the corner, but was deemed not to have grounded the ball by the video referee. Leeds gained momentum following this, as Martin danced through to score his second of the game, levelling the scores at 24-24 in what was truly a fantastic showing of rugby league.

In a dramatic turn of events with just one minute to go, Konrad Hurrell was red carded for a high shot on Myler, seeing Saints down a man for the third time of the night. This came shortly after referee Chris Kendall failed to punish Leeds forward Sam Walters for what looked like a shoulder charge, much to the home crowd’s dismay. Walters had been fantastic on the night, but appeared fortunate to not even receive a penalty for the challenge.

Austin then topped off a great personal performance with the game winning drop goal, giving Leeds both the points in an incredible Betfred Super League tie.