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Clash of the Titans
Posted by southstander on September 18 2008 - 08:40:16

Swansong?

It's a case of déjà vu as the Rhinos travel to Knowsley Road to take on minor premiers St. Helens in the first qualifying semi-final.

Last year the Rhinos narrowly lost by 08-10 before beating Wigan at home in the final eliminator on their way to humiliate Saints at Old Trafford.

The loser on friday night gets another bite at the cherry, but the Leeds players will want their extra weeks rest, and to break Saints impressive unbeaten run.

We preview the game here...

Whatever happens at Knowsley Road, we still have at least one more game this season. Wigan and Catalan Dragons battle it out in the south of France for the chance to face friday nights loser and grasp the last place in the Grand Final, but both Leeds and Saints will want to avoid that and make it to Old Trafford at the first time of asking.

The Rhinos welcome back Matt Diskin and Kylie Leuluai, both of whom were rested for the trip to Belle Vue a fortnight ago, and Ryan Hall gets a surprise inclusion in the nineteen after recovering quickly from a broken foot. Luke Burgess will count himself unlucky to miss out on the squad but still has a change of playing for the Rhinos again this season.

Bluey has named a squad of; Webb, Donald, Senior, Smith, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Sinfield, Lauiti'iti, Bailey, Scruton, Kirke, Ablett, Tansey, and Hall. I suspect that Hall will miss out but is included to get back into squad life in case he is needed over the coming fortnight. The other player to not make the seventeen will likely come from Kirke, Ablett or Tansey. With all players back to fitness, this is theoretically our strongest side, but there is plenty of scope to move things around for the final should we face Saints there again.

This is potentially Daniel Andersons last home game of his Saints coaching career as he looks to leave a full trophy cabinet behind for Mick Potter to inherit. Despite a blip (in the form of a draw against Wigan) a fortnight ago his side have been unstoppable for over half a season, but they have to get beaten some time and why not now?

Anderson has also sprung a surprise by naming Cayless in his nineteen although there must be doubts about him actually being selected in the final reckoning. His nineteen is; Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Roby, Flannery, Graham, Hargreaves, Clough, Fa’asavalu, and Eastmond. It is without doubt a strong Saints side and there is the prospect of an absolute classic between these two side so long as nerves don't get the better of either of them. Three Saints to watch;


Leon

You Bet Sean

Roger Meli

This is the fourth meeting between the sides this season with Saints currently having a two-one advantage. In the only previous game at Knowsley Road the Rhinos ran out as 14-10 winners in a March mudbath. Saints won the game at Headingley in June by 26-12 and were also triumphant at the Galpharm Stadium in the Challenge Cup semi-final by 26-16.

Leeds have secured victory in two out of the last three visits to Knowsley Road and Saints will be very conscious that we will punish anything but total concentration. I suspect that it will be a tight tussle and that the sides might be separated by a one pointer come the final hooter. As long as the Rhinos forwards can stop Saints getting on a roll this one will go down to the wire.

Southstander.com Prediction
Saints 14 16 Rhinos

Saints unbeaten run has to end sometime and why not now? Leeds have the side, the skills and the confidence to get to Old Trafford at the first time of asking, even against a full strength and on-song Saints side. These two side are evenly matched but I think that we may just scrape the win, so long as we are at the top of our game.

The bookies have given Leeds a 4 point start on the coupon, and I'd be taking us with that.

After suffering an almost totally washed out summer, the weather finally looks like it has turned and we are in for a decent mid-September. Dry all day friday so an nice open flowing game.

See you there, lets get right behind the lads.

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