St Helens and Leeds Rhinos clash in Super League Grand Final


Old Trafford awaits two Rugby League giants as St Helens and Leeds Rhinos go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon in the Betfred Super League Grand Final.

After a season of drama, brilliance, controversy, and everything in between, it all comes down to 80 minutes. With 12 teams narrowed down to just two, Saturday evening will see who rises the top and lifts the Grand Final trophy.

With a week full of controversy surrounding disciplinary and appeals, it’ll all be about the action inside the white lines as opposed to disruption outside of them come Saturday.

History makers:

With it being the 25th Super League Grand Final, the tie already makes history as it reaches a quarter of a century.

But there’s more history that has potential to be made at Old Trafford on Saturday. Should Saints come out victorious, they’ll be the only side in history since the beginning of the Super League era, and just the second team in history of the sport, to win four league titles in a row.

After previously winning the last three Grand Finals, Kristian Woolf’s men have become no strangers to success in one of the country’s biggest and more decorative sporting venues.

This St Helens team have an opportunity to write their names into the history book and put themselves even further into the debate of the ‘best English Rugby League team of all time’. Should they win on Saturday afternoon, it’ll be difficult to argue against.

Leeds Resurgence:

Rohan Smith was appointed Leeds head coach just before round ten of the competition back in April, the day before Leeds defeated Toulouse who appeared to be possible relegation rivals earlier in the campaign.

Following the arrival of the new head coach, Leeds won four of their next five games and between round 17 and round 25, the Rhinos enjoyed another successful period, winning eight games out of nine in that stretch of games.

With a narrow victory over Castleford Tigers in the final round of the regular season, the Rhinos sealed their place in the Super League play-offs and set up a tie with Catalan Dragons in the south of France prior to a mouth-watering semi-final with Matt Peet’s Wigan Warriors.

The turnaround from Smith has been nothing short of remarkable. Leeds looked destined for a tough year and the atmosphere at Headingley was becoming uncomforting. But since the Australian’s arrival, things have taken off on an upward trajectory in West-Yorkshire and they’re 80 minutes away from reaching the peak of that positive line.

Team News:

There’s two main talking points from Thursday’s released 21-man squads with Morgan Knowles – controversially, and Ash Handley – slightly surprisingly being named. Starting with the less dramatic, Handley had been missing with a fracture in his fifth metatarsal.

Handley missed the Eliminator fixture against Catalans in addition to being vacant for the Semi-Final at the D.W. Stadium, but with nothing to really lose for the Rhinos, they’ve named him in the squad.

Speaking during his post-match press conference at Old Trafford, Head Coach Smith stated:

“He’s [Handley] about 50/50 [for Saturday].

“He’s been training in ‘rehab mode’ last week and he’s come through it well, so we’ll make a decision tomorrow. There’s a bunch of stuff we’ve done, and we’ve exploited some different avenues to help him recover slightly quicker,”

Leeds are also able to welcome back Rhyse Martin who missed the two previous play-off encounters due to a suspension.

Returning to the side, Smith was delighted to have the goal-kicker back available, he said:

“We’re looking forward to having him [Martin] back. We’ve got plenty of options for half-back and we’ve had to use a lot of players in different positions this year.”

There was one blow for Leeds however who have had to go without having Aidan Sezer available for selection after he picked up a concussion following a high tackle from John Bateman during Leeds’ Semi-Final win which saw Bateman receive a straight red card.

As for the Saints, as mentioned they welcome back Morgan Knowles who has successfully won a second appeal after a tackle on Chris Atkin was originally retrospectively punished with a two-match ban but has since been rescinded and Knowles has been deemed available for selection ahead of the big kick off.

Again, speaking ahead of the big clash at Thursday’s media event, Kristian Woolf was delighted to have Knowles back available and at his disposal as he said:

“It’s obviously a big boost. He’s (Knowles) one of the best in the competition and one of the best in his position in the world.”

Which way will it sway?

Games like this can be impossible to call. The fixture itself would’ve been practically impossible to call a few months ago as Leeds looked like they’d be worried about the other end of the Betfred Super League table, for this year anyway.

But whilst proving the doubters wrong, can they prove the rest of Rugby League wrong one more time and pull off an unbelievable underdog story that would epitomise Rohan Smith’s start with the Rhinos impeccably well?

Or will it be the Saints who write their names into the history books once and for all and put a marker down for them to be considered by many if not most, as the best team of all time in English Rugby League?

The game will be shown live on Sky Sports with a 6pm kick off on Saturday evening and with an expected attendance of over 60,000 inside Old Trafford, it promises to be some occasion no matter what the outcome of the result.

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