THE YEP jury have their say ahead of Leeds Rhinos clash against St Helens.
Last Friday against London Broncos was a good chance for Leeds to build a massive points haul in the quest for first place, winning the game 54-6 and maintaining their unbeaten run.
There were some interesting choices in the 17, with Elliott Minchella coming into the squad for Kevin Sinfield and also resting the likes of Ryan Bailey, Brett Delaney, Jamie Peacock and Tom Briscoe. It was a good chance to blood another youngster in Rob Mulhern, who I mentioned in pre-season could break into the first team.
It was good to see Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow playing in the halves together and they played very well, with Burrow scoring a magnificent try on the final play of the match. It was interesting to see Stevie Ward at centre, as I would have thought we would have played BJB or Briscoe there.
Ryan Hall came back into the squad after signing a new five-year contract, and scored three tries to take his tally to five this season, level with Tom Briscoe. That’s 26 tries from our backs this season so far, with Briscoe and Hall level on five, Zak Hardaker, Kallum Watkins and Ben Jones-Bishop on four and Joel Moon on two. One point on Zak Hardaker, he has a superb boot on him, which should be used a lot more in our plays, I think we have found our kicker for when Kevin Sinfield retires.
In the first six games we have scored 196 points – that’s on average 32.6 points a match – and conceded 52 points, which is just 8.6 points a match, a testament to the effort the lads have put into attack and defence week in week out.
Brian McDermott has a few selection headaches for the massive clash against St Helens at Langtree Park tomorrow, with Jamie Peacock, Ryan Bailey, Kevin Sinfield, Brett Delaney and Tom Briscoe coming back and hopefully Joel Moon has recovered and can return, even though he’s due out for another week.
St Helens narrowly won at Wakefield Wildcats last week 24-16, so their winning mentality is still there, even without their star man Luke Walsh. They played with Paul Wellens and Jon Wilkin in the halves, but the latter is suspended tomorrow.
It will be a test of our defence, as we are playing against the best attacking team in the league at this moment. To win against Saints, we need to win the forward battle first.
I hope we travel over in numbers and fill that away stand. It is the biggest test of the season so far and hopefully we can overcome it and bring the two points back to Leeds.
Before last week’s game most pundits and fans predicted a landslide victory for the Rhinos and that’s what it proved to be.
It is a sad reflection of top-flight rugby league in the UK that these sorts of games exist. If we are to compete internationally then games of this ilk must be made a thing of the past.
It was nothing more than a training session for the Rhinos, the atmosphere akin to a pre-season friendly.
Even the RFL had a chance to blood a new referee safe in the knowledge that any mistakes would not prove to be game-changers. The referee certainly looks like he is from the same mould as the rest, making some, let’s say, interesting decisions.
Looking to this week’s game I’m not sure the London game was ideal preparation. We were afforded the luxury of resting some star players, but I think Brian McDermott would have liked a tougher test. We go to St Helens fresh but not exactly battle hardened.
Having said all that, we do go fairly injury-free while Saints look a little beaten up after a super start to the season.
It is set-up nicely, top versus second, the last two unbeaten teams.
I think it will be a tough 60-minute arm wrestle and then the Rhinos just to shade it. Either way it is a contest that is close to call, which is what Super League should be about.
350 up for Rob Burrow and he got to captain the side and finished off with a trademark try. He will be recognised as an all-time great. There was also a great try from Mitch Achurch, who showed good strength to get the ball down.
It’s a big test this week, the two best teams in the league so far; going to be an El Classico.
London Broncos looked like a young side that was thrown together in a hurry and has had very little time together, which of course is exactly what they are.
As expected they were dispatched by an understrength Leeds side who rested Sinfield, Peacock, Briscoe and Bailey.
I fully expect those four to be back for the sterner test of St Helens this week.
In-form Saints have a few injuries to key personnel, but I think Leeds need to concentrate on their strengths, which are strong, structured defence and quick, hard-running attack.
If they get on the front foot I can see them leapfrogging their hosts to take top spot in Super League.
Leeds remain unbeaten this season after a routine demolition of London Broncos, Ryan Hall – fresh from signing a new five-year deal – scoring a first-half hat-trick.
This week’s game against St Helens has all the potential to be the game of season with both teams playing some of the best rugby seen this year.
It was good to see two youngsters make their home Super League debuts against London.
The Rhinos cruised to a comfortable win with excellent performances from several players including Zak Hardaker and Danny McGuire.
Next up is St Helens and a clash between the only two unbeaten teams in Super League. It should be a cracker! Saints seemed to cope well last Sunday without Luke Walsh, although they will be without ex-Rhino Kyle Amor tomorrow, as he was put on report during the game and subsequently banned for one match. Brian McDermott has some difficult decisions to make regarding selection. Hopefully after the game the Rhinos will be the only unbeaten team in Super League.