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The One We've Been Waiting For!
Posted by southstander on August 23 2012 - 15:51:40

Bursting Wires' Balloon
If you listened to the Wolves supporters, the pundits, and even the neutrals you'd think that there was only one team going to this seasons Carnegie Challenge Cup Final.

No-one gives the Rhinos a 'cat in hells chance', just like before the semi-final when we were making up the numbers as the all-conquering Wigan secured their spot at Wembley. Not!

There is no denying that we are up against it, rank outsiders, favourites to make it an unwanted hat-trick of disappointments. But this is Leeds Rhinos, the team who won Superleague from fifth in 2011. It's not over until it's over.

We preview the game, read more here...

The bookies have the Rhinos at 12/5 with the Wolves at 1/3 (the draw is 22/1). The Rhinos have an eight point start on the handicap coupon and anyone within the game with an opinion, and lets face it that is everyone, has called it as a Wolves win and a repeat of 2010. Rank outsiders, underdogs, no-hopers. Just the way Brian McDermott and his mix of youth and experience like it. No one gives us a hope, perfect for sneaking up on them unawares and picking their pocket.

Everything points to a Wolves win. They've had a great season, pushed Wigan all the way up until they decided not to try in London last weekend, and are perfectly poised to pinch a nice little double of the Challenge Cup and Grand Final. Tony Smith is the shrewdest of coaches, with a team rotated and honed for the long run, but they are as fallible as anyone in a one off circumstance.

It has been a poor season for the Rhinos with just the last few weeks showing some form which has propelled us from outside the eight to a safe fifth. We can, and have, put in three stellar performances this year; the brilliant and brutal win over the Manly Sea Eagles in February to secure the World Club Champions title; the awesome cup semi-final win over the Warriors at the Galpharm; and, the brilliant win over the Wolves at Headingley back in March. The last of those was a game refereed by Richard Silverwood, the whistle blower for Saturday.

We will need to repeat the form of those three matches to have a chance of a win, but we do have that kind of performance in us. All is not yet lost.

Big Mac has named the nineteen that we'd all have expected (given McGuires injury). On the bus to London are; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Griffin, Moore, Ward, Lunt, and Keinhorst.

I think that the agonising decisions that the coach will have to make is whether to start with Burrow at scrum-half, hooker or on the bench. Personally I'd go with the latter and give Ward the half-back jersey and the nod to Lunt at hooker. All three of those will undoubtedly figure, so then it is all about which two will miss out. My guess is that it will be between Clarkson, Moore, Kirke and Keinhorst. I suspect that Clarkson and Kirke will get the nod, simply based on their big game experience.

Wolves have the capability to run rings around us. Smith rested ten of his first choice players last weekend, devastating the Wolves minor premiership aspirations, but eminently sensible ahead of the biggest game of the season so far.

Chris Hill avoided a suspension after his sin-binning last week at the Broncos and the coach can select from a embarrassment of riches.

He has named his nineteen as; Atkins, Briers, Carvell, Cooper, Grix, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Hodgson, McCarthy, Monaghan, Monaghan, Morley, Myler, Ratchford, Riley, Waterhouse, Westwood, and Wood. Very few of those wouldn't make it into any other side in the country and there is danger from everywhere. Briers, Ratchford, Westwood, Hodgson and both Monaghans could be game winners on their own.

Of the seven players with odds under 10/1 to win the Lance Todd Trophy, five are Warrington players (Briers, Hodgson, Myler, Westwood and Michael Monaghan) and just two from the Rhinos (Sinfield & Burrow).

Three Wolves to keep an eye on;


Higham

Morley

Westwood

Richard Silverwood is in the middle, possibly indicating that he is Stuart Cummings current first choice referee. Interestingly he is supported by two other first grade referees on the touchlines in Roby and Child, Phil Bentham is on the slow-motion replays in the video booth.

The last time that these two sides met at this venue was a day that we all went home under a big grey cloud as the Wolves stunned us as we got stage fright and went down to a 6-30 loss.

That's two seasons ago though. This year it is honours even with the Rhinos winning at Headingley in an early season encounter by 26-18. In early June we went to the Halliwell-Jones and got comprehensively beaten by 18-37.

Last season we lost heavily twice in the league, but ran out winners in the all important Final Eliminator by 26-24 on one of those nights that all of us that were never forget. Rhinos fans in their dreams, Wolves fans in their nightmares.

Southstander.com Prediction
Rhinos 16 28 Wolves

I tipped us to lose in the semi-final, and I am doing so again. My heart is shrieking 'Leeds Win' but my cool head is telling me that on form and injuries we'll get beaten again. I think that the Wolves will beat us my more than the bookies handicap, and I am expecting that it will be yet another sad and quiet journey home. But I am praying with every fibre of my body that I am wrong and that the lads will do it for us and end a 13 year drought.

The forecast is for 30% chance of rain from noon onwards and temperatures in the late teens. After last years final hooter drenching I will be taking something waterproof, and possibly a change of clothes to avoid the wet jeans journey home.

Have a safe journey down and enjoy yourself. Sing your hearts out for the lads, and keep everything crossed that we can upset the odds, the bookies and the pundits and pick up another piece of silverware for the trophy cabinet.

Have a great day out.

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