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MATCH PREVIEW - Saints Vs. Leeds - by Stephen07

Saints continue their quest for a first home win of Super League in 2013 when they welcome Leeds Rhinos to Langtree Park on Friday (March 1, kick-off 8.00pm).

Stephen Orford reports for RedVee.Net



Leeds Rhinos

Saints welcome back Paul Clough to the squad……
 
Saints continue their quest for a first home win of Super League in 2013 when they welcome Leeds Rhinos to Langtree Park on Friday (March 1, kick-off 8.00pm).

Despite away wins at Widnes Vikings and Bradford Bulls, Saints' home form has been less impressive with an opening day 40-4 thrashing at the hands of Huddersfield Giants followed by a 22-22 draw against Hull FC in a game they really should have closed out. Now they prepare for the visit of the Super League champions, fresh from their failed bid to become world club champions last weekend.

The Rhinos were edged out 18-14 by the Melbourne Storm in Friday night's thrilling World Club Challenge match (February 22) but will come to St.Helens no doubt buoyed by their performance. Brian McDermott's side gave the NRL's finest a real test at Headingley, and may consider themselves unfortunate not to have come away with the win.

They arrive without full-back Zak Hardaker, still feeling the effects of Rangi Chase's now recently outlawed shoulder charge, while Ben Jones-Bishop continues to miss out due to a blood clot on his lung. Kallum Watkins has proved an able deputy for Hardaker, with Joe Vickery taking the old fashioned route from a pre-season trial to a place on the right wing. Up front the pack is led by former England captain Jamie Peacock and features fellow England internationals Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Carl Ablett, with the influential Kevin Sinfield operating at loose forward.

Saints welcome back Paul Clough to the squad after injury. Clough makes his first appearance in a 19-man selection for Nathan Brown having recovered from an ankle knock, but Brown is still without the services of club captain Paul Wellens with a calf injury. Jonny Lomax made a triumphant switch to full-back against the Bulls last week, helping himself to a try hat-trick in the 36-10 win, and will doubtless retain his place. With Lomax shifted to full-back it was a completely new half-back pairing of Gary Wheeler and Jon Wilkin which was selected by Brown, and he could go that way again with no place in the 19 this week for Lee Gaskell and Lance Hohaia still on the injured list. Ade Gardner made a try-scoring return to first team action also and should continue on the wing in place of Tommy Makinson who was also left out at Odsal, while young centre Mark Percival is drafted into the first team squad for the first time.

Leeds visit to Langtree Park in 2012 ended with a chastening 46-6 drubbing in the first game following Royce Simmons sacking last March. The Rhinos players were most notable for their dyed red hair that day as their commitment to charitable causes far outweighed their commitment to picking up the two competition points on offer. Saints completed a league double over the Rhinos by winning 31-18 at Headingley in May, and overall have 27 wins in Super League meetings to Leeds' 23, though few Saints fans will need reminding that the West Yorkshire club can count no less than four Grand Final victories over the Saints in their tally.

It's sure to be another unpredictable, tense battle this time around and, fresh from their confidence boosting win at Bradford and Leeds' exertions against the Storm, Brown's men might just about have enough to edge it.

Squads;

St.Helens;

2. Ade Gardner, 3. Jordan Turner, 4. Sia Soliola, 5. Francis Meli, 7. Jonny Lomax, 9. James Roby, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 11. Tony Puletua, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Willie Manu, 14. Anthony Laffranchi, 15. Mark Flanagan, 16. Paul Clough, 17. Gary Wheeler, 19. Josh Jones, 24. Joe Greenwood, 25. Alex Walmsley, 27. Anthony Walker. 30. Mark Percival.

Leeds Rhinos;

3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Joel Moon, 5. Ryan Hall, 6. Danny McGuire, 7. Rob Burrow, 8. Kylie Leuluai, 9. Paul McShane, 10. Jamie Peacock, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Ablett, 13. Kevin Sinfield, 14. Stevie Ward, 15. Brett Delaney, 16. Ryan Bailey, 17. Ian Kirke, 18. Chris Clarkson, 19. Mitch Achurch, 21. Richard Moore, 25. Joe Vickery.

Referee: Phil Bentham



Catch up with more from Stephen Orford at www.steorfordonsaints.blogspot.com.


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