St Helens have made Super League history as they ensured this side will never be forgotten. They claimed a record fourth consecutive title in a terrific final against a valiant Leeds side.
Now the question has to be asked: is this the greatest team in Super League history?
Lightning start for Saints
It didn’t take long for Saints to stamp themselves all over the contest as the Man of the Match from the semi-finals Jonny Lomax carved open the Rhinos with a delightful dummy and teed up Matty Lees for the try after a James Bentley penalty had given them the first attacking set of the game within two minutes.
Another grubber another try for Bennison
Jon Bennison was the hero in St Helens’ semi-final win over Salford as he dotted down a grubber kick to score the clinching try and he scored Saints second here as he chased a Jack Welsby kick to ground in the corner to heap more misery on Leeds.
Things get tasty
As we approached the 30 minute mark a dangerous tackle from Rhyse Martin incited a bit of biff and the temperature only got hotter when Tommy Makinson missed the subsequent shot at goal and Tom Briscoe copped a head high shot as he brought the ball away.
Outstanding try from Leeds gives them hope just before halftime
Leeds needed a try just before the break to give themselves hope of victory as they trailed 12-0. After a superb break from Zak Hardaker, Leeds went left where a Rhyse Martin offload to Ash Handley allowed Leeds to come back inside where Cameron Smith found skipper Kruise Leeming who burrowed over. Giving Rhyse Martin the chance to set a new record for consecutive goals without missing which he took to make it 12-6 at the break.
Hurrell heaps misery on former side
Konrad Hurrell has heaped misery on Leeds all season whenever Saints and Leeds have met and he did so again tonight when it appeared that he had been tackled but snuck out an arm to ground the ball at the start of the second half for a vital try.
Centres of attention
From one centre to another Saints all but secured their fourth Super League title with another try this time from Mark Percival who scored in the 2019 decider. He grounded a lovely Jack Welsby grubber after Welsby had darted back to centre field.
Martin gets consolation try
Rhyse Martin certainly deserved a try the way he played and he did after moving out to right centre. A lovely move down the right set Tom Briscoe down the wing and he teed up Martin for the try.
The importance of the opposite ends of the pitch
Most experts predicted that this Grand Final would be decided by the middle third of the field but the focus was in fact on either ends of the field. In the first half Saints took two chances when probing on the Leeds line whilst the Rhinos kept coughing up possession. In a Grand Final you have to maximise attacking possession. That doesn’t mean scoring every time but at least testing your opponents. This area of the field’s importance was only emphasised in the first 20 minutes of the second half. The Saints scored twice when attacking the Leeds end whilst when Leeds had their own chance knocked on.
Leeds missing Sezer
Perhaps the reason why Leeds were so sloppy in attack was the fact they were playing with one natural halfback in Blake Austin with no Aidan Sezer. It ensured that some of their attack lacked the direction it needed leading to knock ons in the attacking end of the field.
Leeds were lucky to just be six points behind at the break, but that shows the resilience of Rohan Smith’s Rhinos. They hang in their when adversity is piling on them and it ensured that we still had a game on our hands going into the second half. In the end it counted for very little but is a good sign going into 2023 for the Rhinos.
Saints in a league of their own
This St Helens is approaching the status Wigan had in the dying days of the winter game. They are, and have been for the last few years, just a step above or maybe two or three ahead of their challengers. It remains to be seen whether in 2023 a team can close the gap on them but it doesn’t seem likely that anyone will. You heard it here first, St Helens to make it five on the spin in 2023.
Hope at Headingley
That said there is hope at Headingley now. Kruise Leeming earlier this week noted that this was a young Leeds side with still plenty of growth within it and tonight’s experience could be valuable for them moving forward.
27 Jon Bennison – 8
2 Tommy Makinson – 7
23 Konrad Hurrell – 8
4 Mark Percival – 8
3 Will Hopoate – 7
1 Jack Welsby – 9
6 Jonny Lomax – 9
17 Agnatius Paasi – 8
9 James Roby – 7
10 Matty Lees – 8
12 Joe Batchelor – 7
16 Curtis Sironen – 7
13 Morgan Knowles – 7
11 Sione Mata’utia – 7
14 Joey Lussick – 6
16 Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook – 7
19 Jake Wingfield – 6
16 Richie Myler – 7
20 Tom Briscoe – 7
33 Zak Hardaker – 7
4 Liam Sutcliffe – 6
5 Ash Handley – 7
6 Blake Austin – 7
17 Cameron Smith – 7
8 Mikolaj Oledzki – 7
24 Jarrod O’Connor – 6
10 Matt Prior – 6
11 James Bentley – 7
12 Rhyse Martin – 7
13 Zane Tetevano – 7
9 Kruise Leeming – 7
19 Bodene Thompson – 7
22 Sam Walters – 6
25 James Donaldson – 6