The newly-crowned World Club Champions St Helens will welcome last season’s Grand Final opponents Leeds Rhinos to the Totally Wicked Stadium this evening in their homecoming game.
It’s Saints first home outing of the Super League season, and also their first at home since beating the Penrith Panthers to the World Club Challenge in Sydney.
They were greeted by nearly 2,000 away supporters for their opener at Castleford last week, and are expecting an almost sell out home crowd for tonight’s largely anticipated matchup.
Saints have won three from three fixtures so far this year, including last week’s 24-6 victory away to the Castleford Tigers.
The other two triumphs came against NRL opposition, beating both Penrith and St George Illawarra on Australian soil. Their hot start to the season suggests the Red V have somehow found yet another gear, and will be a task for the so far struggling Leeds Rhinos.
Leeds will be looking to get their first points of the Super League season after losing both of their opening rounds.
The first came to Warrington Wolves, where they were heavily beaten by over 30 points in a disappointing away performance. Last week was an improvement, losing just 22-18 at Headingley to Hull FC.
Rohan Smith’s side were ahead with just over five minutes to go when Scott Taylor crossed the whitewash to seal a second straight defeat for the Rhinos.
Smith has made three changes to his 21 man squad for the trip to Merseyside, including key man and former Saint James Bentley, who joins the squad for the first time this season following a knew injury.
Forward Morgan Gannon misses out however, following head injury protocol.
— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) March 1, 2023
Paul Wellens has made just one change to the Saints squad that beat Castleford bringing in star winger Tommy Makinson, who also suffered a head injury that saw him miss last week’s game.
They will be without skipper James Roby, who continues to work back to full fitness, with Mark Percival, Will Hopoate and Agnatius Paasi all not risked.
⚪ 𝗦𝗤𝗨𝗔𝗗 𝗡𝗘𝗪𝗦 🔴
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) March 1, 2023
Chris Kendall is the match referee, assisted by video referee Jack Smith along with his touch judges.
Last Time Out
The Grand Final repeat always comes with great anticipation at the start of the new Super League season, however this time out it only looks one way unless a big upset is on the cards.
Leeds went into last season’s final on an incredible run of form winning 10 of their previous 11 games, including a victory away to Wigan Warriors in the semi-final. They didn’t quite have enough in the tank to go all the way, losing 24-12 to Saints at Old Trafford.
St Helens looked comfortable after taking an early 12-point lead, until Leeds responded just before half time to make it a one score game.
Saints came into their own after the break though, once again doing it on the biggest stage to win their fourth Grand Final on the bounce.
Standouts Tommy Makinson and Harry Sunderland Trophy winner Jonny Lomax will be looking to replicate their Grand Final performances, as well as Jack Welsby who has been in serious form since.