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St Helens To Improve If They Are To Overcome The Rhinos In Super League

St Helens To Improve If They Are To Overcome The Rhinos In Super League

Friday 23 Mar 2018 10:38pm

Last year’s Super League competition showed what experience can mean, with the Leeds Rhinos, who had been second best to Castleford Tigers throughout 2017, edging their West Yorkshire rivals in the Grand Final at Old Trafford to claim an eighth Super League crown since 2004 and continue their domination of the summer-era.

Danny McGuire’s masterclass at Old Trafford proved too much for Castleford back in October, and although the Rhinos are without their once inspirational half-back, who has moved to Hull KR, Brian McDermott’s side remain the side to beat in early 2018, or at least according to Justin Holbrook, St Helens’ head-coach.

Leeds and Saints have dominated the Super League era, but in early 2018 it had been the latter to set the pace in the competition, with Holbrook’s side playing an exciting brand of Rugby League. Ben Barba has been the star on Merseyside, producing some exceptional performances from full-back to put himself at the front of the race for the 2018 Man of Steel.

Saints’ perfect start to the season was ended in mid-March, when as expected, they came up against 2017’s champions. Rhinos put in an inspirational performance away from home to claim a 28-20 victory over the league leaders to show that they were still the team to beat, despite the summer departure of McGuire and his trusted half-back partner, Rob Burrow.

Castleford were left licking their wounds following last year’s Grand Final defeat, obviously struggling without Zak Hardaker at full-back, when they came up against Saints in Round 1, however, the Tigers will be confident of improving as the campaign goes on and giving themselves a chance of competing for silverware once again at the business end of the season.

Hull, Wigan and Warrington are all usual suspects you associate with challenging at the top end of the table, whilst it is Wakefield Trinity who look like becoming Super League’s surprise package once again, with Chris Chester’s side looking capable of challenging the top clubs once again this season.

Of course, last season showed us just how important it is to have experience of the business end of the season, with Leeds’ team, who have won from an underdog position on most occasions, managing the Old Trafford occasion far better than Castleford, who looked like rabbits in the headlights in the Theatre of Dreams. Despite that impressive victory last year, Leeds are not amongst the frontrunners to retain their Super League crown, with McDermott’s side priced at 17/4 right here to be Grand Final winners.

This year’s favourites St Helens do have similar experience to Leeds, with the likes of James Roby and Jon Wilkin featuring in their fair share of Grand Finals, with other members of their squad helping Saints to the title in 2014 on the last occasion they won the trophy.

Saints might’ve set the pace this season, but there remains a lot of rugby still to be played and as Leeds showed in 2017, the best side over the course of the season doesn’t necessarily pick up the competition’s main trophy, it is all about who manages the Old Trafford occasion with the best nerve. We know Holbrook’s side have game breakers, but on their first major test of this season, against the Rhinos, it was Super League’s most successful team to come out on top.