Watch Leeds Rhinos vs St Helens live on Sky Sports Arena & Sky Sports Mix on Sunday from 6.25pm
Last Updated: 08/08/20 9:12am
Round eight of the Betfred Super League is primed for a thrilling conclusion as defending champions St Helens face in-form Leeds Rhinos at Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Having made an inconsistent start to their title defence before the season was suspended, Saints returned with a bang last Sunday as they thumped Catalans.
Leeds, meanwhile, produced a stunning comeback to beat Huddersfield and move to the Super League summit.
Leeds Rhinos vs St Helens
August 9, 2020, 6:25pm
State of play
Super League position: 1st
Season so far: P5 W4 D0 L1
Key stats: Leeds boasted the best defence in Super League heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures, conceding just 74 points in five games, while only Hull FC have scored more points than the Rhinos.
Last Sunday’s victory against Huddersfield made it four wins on the bounce for Richard Agar’s men.
Super League position: 5th
Season so far: P6 W3 D0 L3
Key stats: St Helens have won their last four Super League games against Leeds and were 36-20 victors when the teams last met at Headingley in August last year.
Jonny Lomax has been the creative spark for the defending champions, providing a competition-leading eight try assists.
Head-to-head Super League record: Leeds Rhinos W32 St Helens W37.
Hurrell blow for Rhinos
Leeds’ thrilling win over Huddersfield came at a cost, with Konrad Hurrell and James Donaldson both ruled out of Sunday’s game due to injury.
Hurrell, who scored a try in each half against the Giants, suffered a hamstring strain and won’t be risked, while back rower Donaldson faces up to six weeks out with a back injury.
Jack Broadbend and Rhys Evans come in Richard Agar’s 21-man squad while Tom Briscoe could make his first appearance in over a year after recovering from an ACL injury.
Adam Cuthbertson is poised to make his 150th appearance, having made his debut against Hull KR in February 2015.
St Helens’ squad is unchanged with Matt Lees and Dom Peyroux both named despite missing the Catalans game due to illness and injury respectively.
Luke Gale added another Golden Point winner to his resumé against Huddersfield and there has been a history of dramatic drop-goals in previous meetings between these teams.
Three regular season matches have been decided by one-pointers and all of them occured at Headingley.
Iestyn Harris was the hero as Leeds snatched a 13-12 win in 1997 while Lance Hohaia and Danny Richardson slotted decisive drop-goals for St Helens in 2014 and 2018.
Case for the defence
Leeds may have the best defensive record in Super League this season but that will be put to the test against St Helens.
Saints have put 36 points on the Rhinos in their last two meetings, Kevin Naiqama helping himself to a hat-trick in their win at Headingley 12 months ago.
Leeds got out of jail against Huddersfield, scoring four tries in the final 12 minutes to force golden point extra-time. However, Saints aren’t likely to be so generous should they be gifted a 20-point lead.
The Rhinos need to rediscover that steely edge in defence which saw them hold Warrington scoreless in their final game before the season was interrupted.
Matt Prior and James Graham will renew acquaintances on Sunday, having enjoyed plenty of battles during their time in the NRL.
Prior won Grand Finals with St George Illawarra and Cronulla and made 253 NRL appearances, while Graham played 186 games during his eight-year stint in Australia before making an impressive return to St Helens colours against Catalans.
“He’s a great player, as everyone saw last week,” said Prior when asked about the England forward. “He brings a lot to their team.
“He’s ultra competitive in every aspect of the game. He does a lot of work in attack and defence and is an outstanding middle.”
What they said about each other
“We watched them at the weekend and thought ‘these boys don’t look too bad’. The speed in which they played the game was very reminiscent of them looking – quite amazingly, really, after the break – back to their best.
“We were really impressed with what they delivered after the break. You could see the mitigating factors in a couple of their performances pre-covid.”
– Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar on St Helens
“They’re a very good side. If you have a look at what they did before the covid breakdown, they were playing really well and didn’t just beat teams but had a couple of big scores.
“They’re a very good attacking team, that’s for sure, and they showed it again last weekend. They maybe didn’t show it for the full 80 minutes, but they showed it when it mattered and that they’re a team who are not going to go away.”
– St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf on Leeds Rhinos