Super League launches Monday Night Rugby this week with reigning champions Leeds Rhinos taking on the team they beat in the 2011 Grand Final, St Helens, at Headingley.
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Revenge will be in the air for Leeds Rhinos on Monday night when they take on St Helens in Super League at Headingley (Leeds 2/5 draw 20/1 St Helens 15/8).
Brian McDermott’s men were thrashed 46-6 by Saints at Langtree Park at the end of March, a result they have not yet fully recovered from. Heading into that game, the 2011 Grand Final winners had won five games on the bounce, including a 26-12 World Club Challenge win over Manly in February.
However, their Super League form has dipped alarmingly since then, losing three games out of five to go into Monday’s match down in eighth place in the table.
The game was McDermott’s heaviest defeat since taking charge of the Yorkshire club last year and one that he admits still rankles.
“We are still talking about the last time,” said the 42-year-old. “It wasn’t a great day. They had every reason to be very, very good that day and we had a combination of an off-day and some key people missing.
“We’ve taken that into account, but overall we under-performed and that’s something we want to get right. There are certain things we want to put right throughout the year and this is one of those.”
Saints’ form meanwhile couldn’t be more different after a difficult start to the season that saw coach Royce Simmons sacked and replaced on a temporary basis by Mike Rush. Rush’s first game in charge was that victory against Leeds and five wins from their last six Super League games has lifted the club up to sixth place and raised expectations among the supporters.
They can be further boosted by their excellent record at Headingley, winning three of their last five visits to Leeds.
On the face of it therefore the odds of 15/8 for an away victory look tempting for the punters. However, it pays to note that the Rhinos often turn it on when it matters, with their last four Grand Final wins coming against St Helens – including a 32-16 win last October.
That is reflected in their Grand Final odds, with the Rhinos 11/2 to win the 2012 Grand Final despite their relatively low position in the league table.
It appears the bigger the game the bigger the performance from Leeds while Saints’ 18-4 Challenge Cup defeat to Wigan last weekend served as a stark reminder as to the limitations that remain in Rush’s squad.
McDermott will also be able to call upon the services of highly-rated centre Kallum Watkins, who has not played since their Good Friday defeat to the Bradford Bulls due to a medial strain. Influential trio Jamie Peacock, Brett Delaney and Carl Ablett are also back after missing last Friday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final win at Leigh.
Given Leeds have the scent of revenge in their nostrils, can welcome back key players and are on home turf, the signs are pointing towards a Rhinos win. The match odds are fairly short at 2/5, so value could be found by backing the winning margin, with a 11-15 point victory for the Rhinos priced at 11/2.