Rhinos condemned to qualifiers, Saints edge out Wildcats


Leeds Rhinos will be forced to play for their top-flight status in the Super League qualifiers after a 23-22 defeat to Widnes Vikings officially ended the reigning champions' hopes of finishing in the top eight.

Brian McDermott's men have endured a dismal follow-up to their spectacular treble-winning campaign in 2015, winning only five games to date.

After Joe Mellor's last-gasp drop goal earned Widnes a first victory at Headingley since 2002, the Rhinos - seven points outside the top eight with three rounds of the regular season remaining - now know they will feature in a mini-league involving Super League's bottom four and the top four from the Championship.

The top three in the qualifiers will be assured of competing in Super League next year, with the fourth and fifth-placed sides facing a play-off to determine who earns the final berth.

Leeds twice led by 12 points on Sunday, only to be pegged back by the Vikings, whose own spot in the top eight is now all but certain.

Converted tries from Patrick Ah Van and Rhys Hanbury levelled the score, before half-back Mellor put over a match-winning drop goal from 35 metres.

Seventh-placed Wakefield Trinity Wildcats must wait another week to make sure of their place in the top eight after going down 44-32 at home to St Helens.

Jacob Miller scored a hat-trick in a losing cause as the Wildcats were out-scored eight tries to six, late tries from Jordan Turner and Matty Fleming ensuring a Wakefield fightback proved in vain.