League leaders St. Helens take on reigning Champions Leeds Rhinos on Friday night as they look to continue their strong start to the season.
The Saints have won each of their five Super League games this season and are the only side to still have a 100% record. At this point, Justin Holbrook’s side boast the best attack and the meanest defence in the competition and are well worthy of the praise they have received in the early weeks of the campaign.
St. Helens claimed their fifth win of the season by beating Warrington 30-12 at the Halliwell Jones last week. Current top try-scorer Mark Percival scored a hat-trick to take his tally for the year to 7, while the likes of Ben Barba and Danny Richardson also impressed again in another eye-catching performance.
Leeds got back to winning ways with a hard-fought and controversial 20-16 win over Hull FC on their return home to Headingley last Thursday. Captain Kallum Watkins and his right-flank partner Tom Briscoe both scored a try in each half as the Rhinos demonstrated good defence to hold off the Black and Whites and claim the two points.
That win leaves the Rhinos fourth in the standings, and they also have a game in hand on the three clubs above them after their fixture with Catalans Dragons was postponed two weeks ago due to the bad weather.
Saints and Leeds met three times in the 2017 season, and while it was the Rhinos who came out with the better record, the game could have gone either way each time.
The first meeting was the 2017 season opener as St. Helens won a low-scoring affair 6-4 at the Totally Wicked Stadium, before Leeds won the reverse fixture 24-22.
The third game was in the Super 8’s and also the final game in front of the old South Stand at Headingley. Following the pattern of the previous clashes, it was a 2-point margin that won it as the Rhinos came out 16-14 winners.
The two teams have met 75 times overall in the Super League era, and St. Helens have the slight upper hand with 38 wins compared to Leeds’ 37.
Saints coach Justin Holbrook has been forced into one change for Friday’s match after Alex Walmsley was ruled out with a neck injury suffered against Warrington. He is replaced by the experienced Jon Wilkin, who missed his side’s win last week due to a head knock.
Morgan Knowles will serve the fourth and final game of his suspension following his sending off against Catalans last month.
Likewise, the Rhinos have had one change enforced upon them with Mitch Garbutt missing out due to a knee injury picked up against Hull FC. 19-year old forward Cameron Smith takes the Australian’s place in the squad.
Brad Dwyer is also in contention after a rib injury.
Centre Liam Sutcliffe (foot), forwards Adam Cuthbertson (hand) and Stevie Ward (calf) and utility man Jimmy Keinhorst (knee) are all still sidelined.
The 19-man squads in full are-
St. Helens: Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Theo Fages, Matty Smith, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Zeb Taia, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Luke Thompson, Dom Peyroux, Danny Richardson, Regan Grace, Matty Lees, Ben Barba.
Leeds Rhinos: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon, Richie Myler, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Brad Dwyer, Brett Delaney, Anthony Mullally, Ash Handley, Jack Ormondroyd, Jack Walker, Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki, Josh Walters.
Date: Friday 16th March 2018.
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium.
Referee: James Child.