Super League: St Helens v Leeds Rhinos

Jack Welsby scored
Saints’ Jack Welsby was among the scorers when Leeds were thrashed 40-6 in the penultimate round
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium Date: Friday, 1 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC local radio and live text on the BBC Sport website

St Helens’ thrashing of Leeds Rhinos in the penultimate round of the regular Super League season has no bearing on Friday’s play-off semi-final, says head coach Kristian Woolf.

Saints were dominant in the 40-6 win, with try-scoring England prop Alex Walmsley outstanding.

Leeds recovered to win their last two matches, including an 8-0 eliminator success against Wigan last week.

“It’s not going to make much difference to the game coming up,” Woolf said.

“They’re going to be very determined. Outside of a Challenge Cup final it’s the biggest game of the year [the Grand Final], so both teams are going to be determined.

“We’re certainly confident, we played our best footy in the last five or six weeks of the season.”

Woolf grounded around Grand Final talk

Kristian Woolf
Kristian Woolf expects Leeds to be a tough test in Friday’s semi-final

Saints and Leeds have been serial winners in the summer Super League era, sharing 16 titles between them, with Woolf’s side having lifted the past two.

Despite an Old Trafford final being just 80 minutes away, Woolf and his players are not taking anything for granted.

History has not always been kind to the Red Vee in this fixture, with the Blue and Amber of West Yorkshire triumphing in the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 Grand Final meetings, and also dumping them out of the 1998, 2005, 2013 and 2015 play-offs.

“We haven’t thought about what a Grand Final might look like,” Woolf added.

“We’ve got a really important and really big game this weekend, and it’s going to be great to be at home.

“We’re certainly hoping for a great full house, a big occasion and a game we have to be good for.”

Underdogs Leeds fit and raring

Harry Newman
Centre Harry Newman is a key figure for Leeds on the right edge

Leeds’ supremacy in this fixture is also a fading memory to an extent, as Saints have won the past eight meetings stretching back to 2018.

They will be without some key personnel for the game, such as Luke Gale – who kicked a golden point drop-goal for Castleford to quash Saints’ title hopes at this stage in 2017.

That said, Agar has been able to name the same 21-strong group that travelled to Wigan in the last round.

“We’ve had one or two selection dilemmas, but we’ll see,” Agar told BBC Radio Leeds.

“We have considered the odd little tweak, which is a good position to be in at this stage of the year – we’re really confident in pretty much every guy we’ve got in that 21.

“We’ll look at the opposition and see what’s best for us. We have considered it [making changes] because we’re playing opposition that has different threats and are different in the way that we’ve got to break them down.”

Team news

Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, James Roby, Morgan Knowles and Joe Batchelor are all back in the St Helens squad along with the fit-again Sione Mata’utia.

Agnatius Paasi is also back, having served a suspension.

Josh Simm, Josh Eaves, Dan Norman, Sam Royle, Jonathon Bennison, Shay Martyn, Taylor Pemberton and Reece Sumner drop out.

Agar, meanwhile, will pick from the same squad that beat Wigan in the play-off eliminator.

But Rhinos are without Liam Sutcliffe, Gale, Jack Walker, Corey Johnson and Callum McLelland, who are all injured.

St Helens (from): Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Thompson, Knowles, Mata’utia, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paasi, Welsby, Smith, Batchelor, Dodd, Wingfield, Davies.

Leeds (from): L Briscoe, Newman, Hurrell, Handley, Lui, Oledzki, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin, Tetevano, Dwyer, Myler, Smith, Holroyd, Vuniyayawa, Thompson, T Briscoe, Donaldson, Broadbent, Gannon.

BBC News