KAINE GREENWOOD (@RetroPress) was spot on with his Thursday night preview in Wigan so can he repeat the feat when Leeds meet St Helens on Friday?
Leeds v St Helens | Friday 20.00 | Sky Sports 2
Keiron Cunningham has spent the early part of his week urging the RFL to act on tackles around the legs after losing winger Adam Swift to a leg injury early in their victory against Wakefield.
“There is nobody more vulnerable than a player trying to drive through the line, and someone dropping on the back of your legs or shooting in at the knees,” said Cunningham.
The ‘two up top, one at the knees’ technique could be tweaked to ‘one up top, one on their knees’ in reference to this Rhinos v Saints meeting.
It is probably extreme to claim that the treble-winning Rhinos are on their knees but while St. Helens sit fourth in ladder with the third-best attack, the Headingley side come off the back of a defeat to Wigan where they came just seconds away from being nilled for only the second time in Super League history.
A season of adaptation was always ahead and after sweeping all titles in the previous campaign, the standard was always going to be tough to match without influential figures that have donned the shirt for large swathes of the last decade.
A boost for Leeds comes in that they could welcome back Brett Delaney, Carl Ablett, Joel Moon and, most importantly, club captain Danny McGuire into the fold for Saints’ visit.
Treatment in a hydrotherapy jacuzzi has been part of McGuire’s rehabilitation from a five-game lay-off and Brian McDermott’s hand would be strengthened if he could call on the experience of his 14-year veteran half-back to add bubble-and-fizz to an attack that has faltered to this point.
Brett Ferres is one player yet to hit the point-scoring form of his previous Super League seasons at the Huddersfield Giants that would further help recent vulnerabilities.
Though he hasn’t dotted down in a blue-and-amber jersey to date, he certainly has an impact on Rhinos attacking threat; his 88 ball carries so far this season are only topped by prop Adam Cuthbertson and full-back Zak Hardaker while he constantly looks to create openings for teammates – illustrated by a team-high offload total of 16.
Without Swift, St Helens lose their top four-point-getter of 2015 but are likely to replace him with Matty Dawson who has already crossed for the Saints four times in ’16.
This game rarely has the feel of one that will rely on winger-production however and is more likely to call for the grit of the forwards to create space in which the halves or centres can profit.
Calling the winner here on that basis is not a task that I relish – though the sight of St Helens at 6/5 outsiders is something of a surprise considering where both sides are currently.
Instead, taking an interest in those normally in the heart of the action in such tight affairs could prove the best approach and provide a value bet.
At 40/1 with BetVictor (next best 16/1) it would be silly to ignore the prospects of Brett Ferres putting in a performance that takes Leeds to victory, considering his attributes perfectly fit the rough-and-tough challenge Saints are likely to present. He also has a joint career-high try-scoring record against St Helens with eight touchdowns.
Dominique Peyroux has a similar make-up to Ferres and will be keen to make an impact on Super League akin to the two-try salvo he produced in a lacklustre team performance when part of the World Club Series. The utility player’s strength and ball-playing skills look a real task for opponent Joel Moon to match fresh off a hamstring problem.
A three-year period with the New Zealand Warriors only produced 25 appearances for the second-row-cum-centre so he has likely needed the game-time. He is taken here to produce his first league scoring effort with a stature that should certainly match-up against Ryan Hall if contesting Luke Walsh’s trademark kicks.
For this tie our eyes will be fixed on the three-quarter slots, here’s to hitting the mark dead-centre.
Leeds v St Helens – Dominique Peyroux to score a try at anytime (11/5 BetVictor)
Leeds v St Helens – Brett Ferres to be named Man of the Match (40/1 BetVictor)
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