St Helens face Leeds in this Saturday’s Grand Final and it is sure to be a classic.
Both teams are chasing a record ninth Super League Grand Final win, whilst Saints pursue a 10th title all in all and a record breaking fourth consecutive title which would topple the record set by Leeds from 2007-09.
Leeds could make history themselves with a third Grand Final win from fifth in the league but are very much the underdogs despite an amazing run of form towards the end of the season.
The new look Rhinos are set to test Kristian Woolf’s St Helens in every department after massively improving since Rohan Smith took over, however if Leeds are going to lift the Super League trophy they’re going to have to do something they’ve not done for four years: beat St Helens.
The last time Leeds defeat the Saints was at the start of the 2018 season prior to their collapse when tries from Anthony Mullally, Richie Myler, two from Ash Handley and a sneaky score from Matt Parcell gave them the win.
Since then, Leeds have had a torrid time against the Champions. In their other meeting in 2018, there was heartbreak as they lost 23-22 at Headingley having led in the second half. There was a similar story in 2019 when the Rhinos led at halftime away at St Helens before the Saints battled back to win.
The other games in 2019 were more one sided whilst in 2020 both meetings saw Saints reach 40 points with a Regan Grace hat-trick blowing the Rhinos out of the water in the first full round after lockdown.
In the 2021 Challenge Cup, Leeds’ grip on the trophy came to an end at the first hurdle against St Helens despite a valiant effort whilst their other meetings were resounding defeats including one in the semi-finals.
This season, Leeds were nilled by the Saints at Headingley under Jamie Jones-Buchanan whilst Rohan Smith’s side also conceded 40 at the hands of the Champions at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
So, Woolf has never lost to Leeds and when asked how he intends to keep that record going, the Saints boss said: “I’ve got to back our blokes. They’re a group that will give their best. I’ve got to back them.
“Stats like that don’t mean a thing in a Grand Final, the pressure and heat is going to be on both teams but this group will handle that pressure.”
It should be said that there will likely be more pressure on the Rhinos than Saints with the fact St Helens have never won a Grand Final against the Rhinos potentially adding to that.
However, the narrative exists for Woolf and his men with the boss leaving at the end of the year. He took time to thank them for their support: “Outstanding, the fans here are great. The way they support the team, when the going got tough and they start singing songs that lifts everyone.
“I can’t thank the fans enough the way they’ve supported me and my family.”
He also highlighted how his side have done things differently in 2022 in the face of some real adversity: “We’ve had to do it different this year. We’ve had to deal with so many players unavailable doing training sessions with 16, 17 men at the minute and naming just 20.
“We’ve got the class to beat anyone and the toughness and resilience to stay in the fight.”