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Can Leeds Grasp First Chance at Grand Final
Posted by southstander on September 30 2005 - 09:21:45

STOP for Saints!

Okay everyone....Deep breath!

Here we go!

Tonight sees the Rhinos enter into the play-offs, just as we have done every season since the inaugral Grand Final in 1998. With a shocking record of two final appearances out of six attempts, we'll be looking to improve our average against a Saints side which coach Daniel Anderson claims is 'down to the bare bones'.

Despite our recent troubles, we go into the game as equal favourites, although Saints are slight favourites to eventually win the trophy.

Tony Smith's only absentee is Keith Senior. Whilst close to a return, Smithy has decided that he's not worth the risk. From the eighteen players named yesterday, I'd expect Lee Smith to be the Rhino that misses out on the game. The lads, like the Saints players, have all had a fortnight to rest their battle weary bodies. Make no mistake, they will be up for this one.

The most interesting team news comes from Daniel Andersons camp.

An eighteen of Wellens, Gardner, Lyon, Talau, Hooper, Fozzard, Cunningham, Gilmour, Wilkin, Higham, Bennett, Mason, Paul Anderson, Graham, Hardman, Roby, Fa'asavalu, and Vinnie Anderson is most notable for the names that are missing. Albert, Sculthorpe, Long and Edmondson are all absent as Saints battle to overcome their disappointment of defeat against Bradford a fortnight ago.

Neither side come into the game with convincing form. Leeds scrambled a 34-26 win against the Wakefield Wildcats a fortnight ago, while Saints most recent outing was the 32-18 defeat at home to Bradford. Three Saints to watch;

Paul Anderson

Kieron Cunningham

Jamie Lyon

The Rhios have played Saints on two occasions so far this season with honours even at one game each. The Rhinos won the first meeting at Headingley by 30-18, before losing 24-38 in the game at Knowsley Road in May. KR is not the happiest hunting ground for Leeds with only three wins in the last ten vistis (all competitions).

This will be a tough one for both sides. The loss in form for the Rhinos is balanced out by the loss of playmakers for the Saints, although with Lyon, Cunningham and Hooper they aren't totally without inspiration.

If you'd asked me three weeks ago I would have suggested that we didn't have a chance, but thanks to Terry Newtons thuggery, there is very little to choose between the sides. Prediction
Saints 20 22 Rhinos

The bookies, can't separate us, offering both sides at 11/10 with 18/1 the draw (could be worth a punt). A successful drop-goal at 11/8 looks decent for short-odds lovers, or how about 12/1 for SL's top try scorer Mark Calderwood to score the opener?

There is likely to be a pretty big crowd in evidence, but probably not the 12,500 that Saints were hoping for. I understand that there will be some availability of pay-on-the-day through the turnstiles.

The forecasters are expecting a wet night, so take your big coat. I can't wait - it should be a belter.



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