Opposition Profile – St Helens
Leeds Rhinos meet the 2019 League Leaders St Helens at Emerald Headingley this Thursday night, kick off 7:45pm.
Justin Holbrook’s side have been the team to beat throughout the season and have set the standard with their powerful forwards and creative edge players. With one trophy already secured and another up for grabs next weekend, a win over the Rhinos would be positive entering the final matches of the regular season.
Ahead of Thursday night’s clash, find out more about the opposition:
Having led from the start of the season, St Helens finally secured the League Leaders Shield for consecutive seasons, following Warrington’s defeat to Catalans a fortnight ago. It is the first time since 2008 that the club have won the shield back to back.
With the loss of full back Ben Barba, the impact of signings Lachlan Coote and Kevin Naiqama, plus the international experience of Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson and James Roby, has ensured that the Saints have rivalled once again, losing only three times.
Holbrook will be wanting his side to maintain that form going into Saturday’s Challenge Cup final and for the rest of the season, with fixtures against Castleford, Huddersfield and Hull FC closing out the regular season.
Whether its been close league meetings or play off knockouts, there have been some memorable clashes between the two sides as they meet for the 81st time on Friday night. St Helens won the first meeting at Emerald Headingley in 1996 but a year later, it was a drop goal by Iestyn Harris that secured Leeds’ first win.
In 2001, the home side recorded their biggest win over the travelling Saints, winning 74-16 thanks to four tries from Tony Carroll and three from Francis Cummins. Two years later in 2003, the Rhinos fought back from 20 points down to win 30-20, solidifying their place in the Play Offs for that season.
More recently, the Red V have had the best of results at Emerald Headingley. Since 2011, they have taken away the two points six times in front of a Leeds crowd, notably winning both home and away in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Last ten meetings at Emerald Headingley
Record against the Rhinos
Clashes between St Helens and Leeds in the Betfred Super League have always had a winner both at Emerald Headingley and at the Totally Wicked Stadium. The Rhinos (15) have two more wins than St Helens (13) on home soil, taking the points twice in 1998, 2003 and 2017.
Since 1996, there have also been three meetings at Emerald Headingley in the Play Offs, with each match producing magical moments. Leeds won the first in 1998, with Francis Cummins scoring a hat trick to send the club to their first Super League Grand Final. Danny McGuire was the superstar in 2013. His drop goal with minutes to spare sent Leeds through to face Wigan in the semi finals. Finally in 2015, Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai made their final Headingley appearance in an epic 20-13 semi final win over the Saints.
In the News
When Warrington lost to Catalans Dragons in Perignan, St Helens were confirmed as winners of the League Leader Shield with 22 wins out of 25 games.
Justin Holbrook announced that he will be joining Gold Coast Titans for the 2020 NRL season. Since joining the club in 2017, Holbrook has won two league leaders shields and reach two Play Off semi finals, losing to Castleford (2017) and Warrington (2018).
Second rower Zeb Taia is set to make his 300th career appearance on Thursday night. Taia has made 81 appearance for St Helens over three seasons and has also played for Gold Coast Titans, Catalans Dragons, Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels.
Position: Full Back/Half Back
Tackle Busts: 78
Clean Breaks: 16
Last Time Out
Only a point seperated the two sides last season, with Danny Richardson winning the game late for Justin Holbrook’s side. A double from Tom Briscoe plus other scores from Mitch Garbutt and Brett Ferres ensured that that the home side matched the league leaders before Richardson dropped a one pointer with three minutes left.
After last week’s win over Warrington Wolves at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Justin Holbrook makes two changes for this weeks match. Young gun Morgan Knowles makes his return after missing the last three games with a rib injury. Joe Batchelor also comes into the squad as Joseph Paulo and Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook drop out.
Alex Walmsley, Lachlan Coote and James Roby are still out injured but could return for the Challenge Cup final next weekend.
Secure your tickets for Thursday night’s double header, which sees Rob Burrow’s Under 19s take on St Helens Under 19s prior to the main Super League clash against the Saints.
Match tickets start from just £12 for juniors, from £16 for concessions and from £24 adults. Book before midnight the day before the game to guarantee the best price for your ticket and save £3 on match day prices.*