The third part of the trilogy takes place this saturday as the two top teams lock horns yet again for the honour of being SL champions.
St. Helens have been the far most impressive teams defensively in the play-offs. They have been disciplined, structured and keep a great line. Attacking wise they haven't been nearly as good. Their kicking in open play has been poor as has their goal kicking and this could well prove crucial in a tight game. Pryce went AWOL against Wigan and you wouldn't bet against him doing the same in the final. So much talent often unused when it counts. Graham is the cornerstone of the Saints pack but I have been really impressed with Puletula, although he does seem wasted at prop.
Leeds looked very rusty against the Dragons although when we clicked we looked unstoppable and the scrambling defence was the best I have seen for a long time. You know Peacock will be immense and if the rest of the pack can match him then the backs could have a field day. Expect Leeds to target Meli and Gardner. Meli has been awesome with the ball in hand but I would expect plenty of contested kicks to both wings, i would really fancy hall against Gardner.
There is no doubt in my mind Leeds are the better team by a distance so why do I have a bad feeling about saturday?
Law of averages say Saints must win sometime? Maybe. If Leeds turn up and play as well as they can I can't see Saints winning. However, there is just that nagging doubt at the back of my mind that says Saints will nick it. Perhaps i'm just a grumpy old man!
leeds by 10.
Oldham Rhino's Thoughs
I think Saints might be too pumped up for the game, it can have an affect on players. See Leeds v Bradford in 2004 in the qualifying semi final. I'm just not sure that Potter has the skills to pay the bills and get his team up for it. OK It's a last hurrah in a Saints shirt for Long and Gilmour but Longy is being nicely distracted by all the kerfuffle about his book at the moment.
Leeds meanwhile have had a settled side for a good few weeks now and hopefully Ali Lauitiiti will be back this week to take his place on the big stage. This is his time of year and I'm expecting a huge game from the Samoan. There are so many little side shows on Saturday, JJB v FGB, Peacock v Puletua, Sinfield v Wilkin, Smith v Gilmour.
It's also a role revarsal from the last couple of years, Leeds will come into the game as league leaders and possible slight favourites with the bookmakers. It should be a ripsnorter of a game and I'm looking forward to it.
Rhinos by 10.
You'll get my full preview tomorrow but my initial thoughts are that my head says that we should win the game comfortably, and my heart is full of the nerves, doubt and excitement that the lads will be going through at this moment.
This is Harry Potters first Grand Final and after losing out on the Challenge Cup and Hub Cap this season he will be determined not to finish the season as the first Saints coach within living memory (if you believe the Saints Fans) to end the season without silverware. The looked good in patches last week against the Warriors but also only just scraped through and that with the benefit of a couple of suspect calls from 'Saint' Steve.
Most of the rugby leagues eyes are currently focussed on the ongoing saga of our very own Pulitezer Prize contender, Sean Long. The Grand Final comes before his impending trip to Red Hall where he will face yet another suspension for his gambling antics and where he will be asked to drop his current team mates well and truly in the brown stuff. He must be very popular in the dressing room.
Leeds will welcome back, and need, big Ali who has been scintilating in recent weeks and was sorely missed against the Dragons. Diskin will need a big game against Roby and 'Fat Boy' Cunningham and the McGuire/Burrow pairing will need to eclipse Long/Pryce. The key could well be Kevin Sinfield and if the skipper is on his game the silverware will be on its way back to Headingley.
There is a small percentage of me that has a nagging doubt, but then I'm a Leeds supporter, that doubt is borne of years of experience.
Rhinos by 16.
|George Riley||BBC Radio 5live||Leeds by 8|
|Christopher Irvine||The Times||Leeds by 4|
|Gareth Walker||The People||Saints by 1|
|Dave Woods||BBC TV||Leeds by 7|
|Richard Stead||Yorkshire Radio||Leeds by 14|
|Richard De La Rivière||Rugby League World||Saints by 4|
|Mike Rossiter||Yorkshire Radio||Leeds by 8|
|Stuart Wilkinson||France Assistant Coach||Leeds by 12|
|Martin Cheney||Bramley Buffaloes Chairman||Leeds by 2|
|Daniel Spencer||League Publications Ltd||Leeds by 12|
Just to save you doing the maths, the average of these is for a Rhinos eight point win. You can get 9/2 on this with our bookies who have given Saints a six point start on the coupon.