There was no doubt that the Rhinos eased off the gas last weekend and almost let the Dragons back into the semi-final. You can't really blame the lads when after a scintilating three-try, five minute spell in the second half, they thought that the game was won and opted for self-preservation. There will be none of that this weekend as all seventeen of those lucky enough to grace the Manchester turf will give 100% for the full eighty minutes.
Ali Lauiti'iti is back in the squad after missing out last week through illness and all seventeen of last weeks team came through without major scare. Bluey has named a nineteen of; Webb, Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Lauitiiti, Sinfield, Diskin, Bailey, Kirke, Ablett, Burgess, Worrall, and Watkins. It's almost guaranteed that it will be Worrall and Watkins who are the unlucky ones, but Bluey could well spring a surprise and the most likely of these would be Worrall in for Bailey.
All the pre-match talk has been of Sean Long, with only a fleeting mention to the fact that this is his last game for the Saints before his suspension.....sorry, move to Hull. What we should also remember is that this is the last game in Blue & Amber for last seasons Harry Sunderland Trophy winner Lee Smith and the lads will be desperate to give him a great send off with another winners ring on his finger.
Potter experiences his very first Grand Final, but his inexperience is outweighed massively by that of his players many of whom will be making their fourth consecutive appearance. The Saints have gone into the last two Grand Finals against Leeds having finished top of the regular season pile and as big favourites, this time they are the underdogs.
Potter has named his nineteen as; Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Meli, Pryce, Long, Cunningham, Graham, Gilmour, Wilkin, Flannery, Roby, Hargreaves, Puletua, Clough, Eastmond, Fa'asavalu, Dixon, and Ashurst. Dixon and Ashurst will be the two left out providing that there are no injuries that we are unaware of. Long, Gilmour, and if rumours are to be believed Eastmond, are all playing their last games before leaving for pastures new. That said, there is no denying that this Saints side is packed with quality and on their day they can annihilate anyone.
Three Saints to watch;
The two sides have met on three occasions this season with the Saints claiming victory in two of those encounters. The first meeting was at Knowsley Road when the home side won 26-18. Saints also won the Challenge Cup at Headingley by 22-18 in April. Thes games were both at a time when Saints were on fire and the Rhinos were struggling to get started.
Early in September the two sides met for the third time, again at Headingley, and this was the Rhinos first victory of the season over our closest rivals. Two tries from Ryan Hall and one from Carl Ablett helped the Rhinos to a 18-10 win which sealed the Minor Premiership. Interestingly Leeds have scored eighteen points in all three games, would a similar score be enough come saturday night? Possibly not.
Just in case you want to re-read them, here are the match reports from 2007 and 2008. Enjoy!
For the last two seasons I have tipped a narrow Leeds Grand Final win but this year my head is far more confident that we will bust the six point start that the handicappers have given the red vees. My heart is a different matter, filled with doubt and worry that this will be the year when the Saints get their own back and lift the trophy from second place. Most of our pundits have also tipped the Rhinos, with the average being an eight point Leeds win.
If we win it looks like John Wilkin will need to find an excuse other than rain as tomorrows forecast is for it to be overcast with only a small chance of a shower.
The bookies have given the Saints a six point start on the coupon and on this occasion I don't think that it will be enough. Without the handicaps the Rhinos are 9/20 while the Saints are 7/4, the bookies really don't fancy their chances. Leeds by our pundits average of eight points is available at 9/2.
It's going to be a fantastic night, hopefully one capped with glory as we lift the trophy for the third time while Saints fans once again trudge into the dark, cold October evening. Have a safe journey and a safe night and get behind the lads 100%.
See you there.