The Super League is back after the week off for the international match on Thursday and it returns with the two most successive teams of the Super League era in action as St Helens welcome Leeds Rhinos to the Totally Wicked Stadium.
This is a pretty big match for both clubs. Saints can move six points clear at the top of the table while Leeds need to win to keep a grasp of the coattails of those in the top six so we’re nicely setup for a competitive game.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Cricket channels. The build-up at the Totally Wicked Stadium begins at 7.30pm and kick off comes at 8pm.
You wouldn’t say St Helens have been at their best since then they were dumped out of the Challenge Cup by Wigan in the semi-final. They have won all four matches since then but if we are setting them on the standards of the last season or two then they are not quite there yet, but they are certainly good enough. This is a chance to show a potential title rival that they mean business and I’m sure they will be right up for that.
You can never criticise a team for winning but we are used to the winning margins of St Helens being a little larger than they have been recently which suggests they are not quite at their best, particularly in attacking departments. That is probably no surprise with the injuries they have contended with. The one thing that always seems to be good is their defence and that makes them tough to beat even when they are not at their best.
Leeds Rhinos’ indifferent beginning to the season has left them playing catch up in terms of reaching the top six but to be fair since Rohan Smith came in they have certainly picked up and look much more like the outfit which won this competition many times in the past. They were beaten at Huddersfield Giants last time out which was a bit of a blow to their revival but even in that match they were positive in what they did.
The big Issue Leeds have had this season has been cohesion around the opposing try line. They have had little problem getting there, as you would expect for a team with the level of forwards they have got, but when they’ve got there they have been clueless at times and that has cost them. Smith has immediately brought a spark to their attacking play, as we saw when the Rhinos put 40 up on Warrington a few weeks ago.
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St Helens will be without Mark Percival for this match so they are going to have to shift some bodies around in the centre position. Josh Simm comes into the squad for this game in place of the suspended James Bell. Lewis Dodd is also still out.
Leeds Rhinos could have key half-back signing Aidan Sezer back for this match after he has recovered from injury. There will also be returns to the side for former St Helens man James Bentley and utility back Kruise Leeming.
In the last five Super League meetings with St Helens, Leeds Rhinos have posted a grand total of 22 points cumulatively and although their attacking issues have been apparent this term, that hasn’t been the case throughout that period of time. I guess that would make St Helens good things to cover a 14 point handicap but I’m just not sure they are functioning brilliantly in attack and in Mark Percival and Lewis Dodd they are without a couple of key attacking components.
Most of the Leeds team have had their feet up watching the international stuff last weekend whereas St Helens had a number of players on duty with their national team so I’m not convinced we’re going to get a vintage Saints performance here. They always show up for each other defensively though so when you put that all together it might be that the 42.5 points line is a few too high.
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