Opposition Profile: St Helens

Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com - 22/02/2020 - Rugby League - Betfred World Club Challenge - St Helens v Sydney Roosters - The Totally Wicked Stadium, Langtree Park, St Helens, England - St Helens' Luke Thompson celebrates scoring the 1st try

Following their dramatic return to Super League action last weekend next up for the Rhinos is reigning champions St Helens.

Having both won their first games back the match up between Richard Agar’s Rhinos and Kristian Woolf’s Saints will round off the weekend of rugby and it promises to be another entertaining matchup.


Overview

After winning their seventh Super League title and the league leaders’ shield, St Helens had set the standard for the last two years under Justin Holbrook. Kristian Woolf took over for the 2020 season, but with no new arrivals in the off season, the club put faith in their talented youngsters from their academy, with the likes of Jack Welsby, James Bentley and Matthew Costello all being given the chance to make their mark on the first team.

Only Danny Richardson (Castleford) and Adam Swift (Hull FC) departed ahead of the current season and later Luke Thompson signed for NRL side Canterbury Bulldogs. That prompted the return of cult hero James Graham after eight years in the NRL.

St Helens kicked off the new season with a resounding 48-8 win at the Totally Wicked Stadium in a replay of last year’s Grand Final.

Despite a strong opening season win against Salford, Saints have already lost as many games in the league as they had throughout the whole of the 2019 season (3). Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers and Huddersfield Giants all inflicted defeats prior to the lockdown, as well as Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge, but last Sunday’s dominant performance over Catalans Dragons has put the Champions back on track to sit in fifth place.


Last Time Out

Like Leeds, St Helens were also in action at Emerald Headingley last Sunday, convincingly defeating Catalan Dragons 34-6. Click on the image to watch the highlights.

Saints were back in action last weekend, thrashing Catalans Dragons 34-6. Full back, Lachlan Coote recorded 18 points in the match (two tries and five conversions), whilst there were also tries for James Bentley, Zeb Taia and Tommy Makinson. James Maloney ensured the Dragons weren’t going to be nilled, before Alex Walmsley’s bullocking run to the try line sealed a resounding win for Kristian Woolf’s side.


Key Players

ZEB TAIA

Position: Back Row

Career Appearances: 110

Super League Tries: 10

Former clubs: Gold Coast Titans, Catalans Dragons

Bio: Taia is an unsung hero of Woolf’s team. The second rower knows how to break the defensive line and set up one of his outside backs to get over the try line and showed those skills last weekend. Joel Thompson, who’s arriving from the NRL next year, will have big boots to fill in 2021 when Taia returns to Australia.

JONNY LOMAX

Position: Full Back/Scrum Half

SL Appearances: 197

Career Tries: 109

England and Great Britain international

Bio: Following one of his best Super League seasons, Lomax has successfully made the switch from full back to half back and has made a close partnership with Theo Fages. He earned a Dream Team appearance for his efforts in 2019 and with quick footwork close to the line will be both a running and kicking threat.


Previous Meetings

From late drop goals to hat trick try scorers, fixtures between St Helens and the Rhinos are generally entertaining clashes.

St Helens have produced large scorelines against Leeds, notably in their early Super League title winning seasons. A 46-24 result in the first Super League meeting between the two sides in 1996 was followed by a 42-14 win in 2000; Anthony Sullivan scoring a hat trick to ensure Saints made an unbeaten start to the season.

Leeds though have managed to score 70+ points on two occasions at Headingley. In 2001, Daryl Powell’s side shocked the reigning Champions 74-16 thanks to four tries from Tonie Carroll and a Francis Cummins hat trick. It was a performance that Leeds repeated three year’s later in their Grand Final winning season; Danny McGuire and Marcus Bai crossing the whitewash three times each as Tony Smith’s side remained unbeaten in five matches towards the end of the season.

Ryan Hall has scored the most tries out of any Leeds player against St Helens. The winger has scored 14 times including two Grand Final tries (2008 and 2011).

More recently, winger Ash Handley burst onto the scene with three tries against St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium in 2015. He went on to do the same again at Headingley later that year in a 46-18 result as the Rhinos sat top of the table and eventually took away the Treble. Leeds followed that up with three home league wins over Saints in 2016 and 2017 twice before Justin Holbrook’s side won the next two in 2018 and 2019.

Last Ten Meetings at Emerald Headingley

Leeds Rhinos 20 St Helens 36 (Rnd 26, 15/08/19)

Leeds Rhinos 22 St Helens 23 (Rnd 13, 15/06/18)

Leeds Rhinos 16 St Helens 14 (Super 8s, 18/08/17)

Leeds Rhinos 24 St Helens 22 (Rnd 20, 29/06/17) 

Leeds Rhinos 30 St Helens 18 (Rnd 6, 18/03/16)

Leeds Rhinos 20 St Helens 13 (Semi Final, 02/10/15)

Leeds Rhinos 18 St Helens 32 (Super 8s, 04/09/15) 

Leeds Rhinos 46 St Helens 18 (Rnd 20, 03/07/15) 

Leeds Rhinos 12 St Helens 13 (Rnd 25, 29/08/14) 

Leeds Rhinos 32 St Helens 12 (Challenge Cup Rnd 5, 26/04/14)


Record against the Rhinos

In Super League, both sides have met 69 times and there has always been a winner. Leeds have won 32 of them, including the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 Grand Final victories and four years of play offs (1998, 2005, 2013 and 2015).

In 1998, as well as winning the play off match 44-16 to send Graham Murray’s side into the Grand Final, Leeds also beat the Saints at home (37-18) and away (31-18). That feat has only been repeated twice since, in 2003 (Home: 20-14 and 30-20; Away: 24-16 ) and 2007 (Home: 38-19; Away: 22-10).

Current Rhinos winger Ash Handley scored hat tricks against St Helens both at Headingley and the Totally Wicked Stadium in 2015.

St Helens on the other hand have won five more games (37). 14 of those wins have been at Headingley, starting in 1996 with a 46-24 result. From 2011 to 2014, the ‘Red V’ won every regular season match against Leeds at Headingley including a 13-12 win in 2014, thanks to a Lance Hohaia drop goal. They also needed a drop goal in 2018 too; Danny Richardson this time slotting the ball between the posts to take away a 23-22 win.


Head to Head


Last Game Against the Rhinos

Following two big wins over Huddersfield and Catalans, Leeds couldn’t replicate a similar result against the then league leaders St Helens at Emerald Headingley. Kevin Naiqama stole the spotlight with his hat trick in the 36-20 win, whilst the Rhinos’ Richie Myler, Harry Newman and Ash Handley (who bagged a double) all got over the try line for Richard Agar’s side.