Opposition Profile – St Helens
Friday night sees another classic Betfred Super League clash take place as Leeds Rhinos travel to face St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium. The 27-22 win against Leeds back in February helped Justin Holbrook’s side to the top of the table, where they currently sit. With the Rhinos looking to get back to winning ways, read more about what Richard Agar’s side can expect from the league leaders.
After losing ‘Man of Steel’ Ben Barba, club stalwart Jon Wilkin and half back Matty Smith at the end of last season, St Helens ensured that they filled their vacant positions with experienced NRL stars. 2015 NRL Grand Final winner Lachlan Coote, adaptable back rower Joseph Paulo and Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama were all added to bolster Saints’ ranks and have been effective in both attack and defence.
Since round one, St Helens have carried their form through from 2018, winning sixteen out of eighteen matches so far in 2019. The ‘Red V’ have also amassed over 600 points already, with their highest scoreline coming against Hull FC; new signing Naiqama scoring four tries in a 62-16 win.
After a golden point defeat to London at Ealing Trailfinders, St Helens were back to their best last week, holding Huddersfield Giants to only two points in a 38-2 win. After conceding a Oliver Russell penalty goal in the opening minutes, the home side hit the front thanks to a hat trick from the recalled Tommy Makinson and a brace from full back Jonny Lomax. Lachlan Coote and Theo Fages were also on the scoresheet as the league leaders moved six points clear at the top of the table.
Fixtures between Leeds and St Helens don’t end in draws. There has always been a definitive winner since Super League started in 1996, with the home side claiming the most wins. Saints’ highest win against Leeds came in 1999 when they beat the newly crowned Challenge Cup winners 62-18. Leeds tries from Francis Cummins, Darren Fleary and Andy Hay couldn’t stop the eventual Super League champions.
Big scorelines aren’t a rarity either with more than 40 points being scored by one side on ten occasions (eight times for St Helens, two times for Leeds). The most recent result came in 2015 when Leeds ran out 41-16 victors thanks to a first half hat trick from Ash Handley. Including this season, the winger has scored seven times in the four matches he has played at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Last ten matches at the Totally Wicked Stadium
Record against the Rhinos
Overall, St Helens have three more wins against Leeds in terms of Super League form. This includes four Play Off wins (1999, 2001, 2007 and 2008), which on three occasions has seen St Helens reach the Grand Final. The Rhinos’ record also includes four play off wins (1998, 2005, 2013 and 2015) as well as the four Grand Finals when Leeds have beaten St Helens to lift the Super League trophy (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011).
In terms of form in St Helens, previously at Knowsley Road and more recently at Totally Wicked Stadium, Saints have walked away with the victory on 18 occasions. In 1999, 2002 and 2006, St Helens won twice on home soil and between 2009 and 2012, the Rhinos failed to record a win on the road against Saints.
The Rhinos have picked up wins away at St Helens ten times, the first coming in 1998. Leeds won back to back games with a 22-10 result in 2007 and a 14-10 victory in 2008 prior to the four year winless run. Two tries for Ryan Hall in 2013 helped Leeds break that streak, with the winger currently holding the record for the most tries against the Saints, crossing 14 times both home and away.
In the News
Last week, following the departure of Sean Long, former Halifax coach Richard Marshall was announced as the new assistant coach until the end of 2020. Marshall was previously assistant to Tony Smith at Warrington from 2010-2014 before signing for Halifax in 2015.
Jonny Lomax passed 100 St Helens tries with his double against Huddersfield last week. The England international broke into the team in 2011 and celebrates his testimonial year in 2019.
Clean Breaks: 22
Tackle Busts: 77
Try Assists: 19
St Helens are largely unchanged ahead of Friday nights match, making two changes. Joint top try scorer Regan Grace comes back into the side, after missing last weeks win against Huddersfield, to replace Adam Swift on the wing. Forward Matty Lees is the other change, coming in for Joseph Paulo.
Jack Ashworth is named after successfully overturning a one match ban to join youngsters Aaron Smith, James Bentley and Matthew Costello in the squad.
Last Time Out
When the Rhinos visited the Totally Wicked Stadium in round four, they pushed the home side close, losing out 27-22. Despite tries from Theo Fages and Jonny Lomax in the opening minutes, Leeds led at the break thanks to tries from Kallum Watkins, Konrad Hurrell, Ash Handley and Mikolaj Oledzki. Saint’s bounced back in the second half though with prop Alex Walmsley scoring twice and Luke Thompson adding his name to the scoresheet. James Roby scored a late drop goal to seal the win.
Tickets and travel for St Helens v Leeds Rhinos are now on sale. Tickets can be purchased either by coming down to the Leeds Rugby Ticket Office at the Emerald Headingley Stadium, over the phone on 0371 423 1315 or online at tickets.therhinos.co.uk.