The Rhinos are unchanged from the win over the Salford Red Devils which saw them reach the top of the pile after one third of Superleague XIX. Kallum Watkins and Ian Kirke, both rested for the visit of the Devils are back in the nineteen and I think it is likely that they will both be in the named seventeen to do battle with the red vee's.
After a sluggish first half last monday the Rhinos turned on the second half style and ran out comfortable winners. Most pleasing about recent performances is a brilliant defence which has seen the Rhinos leak an average of just over eight points a match, almost half the points shipped in by the second best defence in the league (Wigan) and over one hundred less than Saturdays opponents.
Brian McDermott names a nineteen comprising; Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, and Singleton. It is difficult to know who will miss out, you'd normally expect Sutcliffe and Singleton but they have both done more than enough over the last couple of weeks to justify their inclusion. Last season it would have been Achurch, but he's been stunning in the last couple of games. It is a real dilemma for McDermott.
Nathan Brown took the opportunity of a trip to Widnes to rest some of his stars and with a loss seeing them drop two places in Superleague it appears to have backfired. Lomax, Roby, Amor, Walmsley and Walsh are all likely to play a part against the Rhinos after sitting out Easter Monday.
Brown has named his strong nineteen as; Lomax, Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Greenwood, Richards, and Thompson.
The Rhinos v. Saints fixture is becoming a Challenge Cup tradition with nine meetings between the two sides in the competition since the advent of Superleague. Some of them have been absolute humdingers, classic games of rugby league between two sides at the tops of their games. Challenge Cup honours over the last eighteen seasons are in Saints favour with five wins in nine games. Games have been (click for match reports);
|Date|| Round|| Score||27/02/99|| 5|| 24-16
||26/02/00|| 5|| 26-20
||31/03/01|| SF|| 22-27
||14/04/02|| SF|| 16-42
||12/04/03|| SF|| 33-26
||13/03/04|| 5|| 14-24
||26/07/08|| SF|| 16-26
||05/04/09|| 4|| 18-22
||07/08/10|| SF|| 32-28
Make no mistake, if history teaches us anything we could be in for one of those 'I was there' games.
I'm picking the Rhinos for a win, but the clincher for me is the weather forcast which suggests rain, and we know what happens when the Rhinos play Saints in the rain. That said, it is simply too close to call and should be a belter for the crowd and television audience.
The bookies are giving Saints a six point start on the coupon, a little larger than I expected. I wouldn't be surprised for this one to be settled by a single pointer.
The winner of this game are likely to be installed as cup favourites, let's just hope that it is Leeds.
Travel safe and enjoy the match.