St Helens legend Paul Sculthorpe previews the champions’ trip to Headingley to take on Leeds Rhinos in the Betfred Super League on Friday night (20:00).

Sculthorpe’s Tip for Leeds Rhinos vs St Helens

  • Saints to win by 12 or more points @ 2/1

Paul Wellens must be increasingly frustrated with the poor discipline his players are continuously showing. Almost every week he’s finding someone is unavailable due to suspension.

Saints’ USP in the last few years has been their superior defensive line speed and aggression – and that’s something I know Wello would never, ever want to change.

However, in the ever-evolving world of sport, especially Rugby League with more focus on welfare and reducing the amount of head injuries, players have to learn to be far more controlled.

The one thing I loved when playing this great game was the physicality. The gladiatorial battle with your opponents and giving everything you had to make sure you came out on top is one of the things that drives players to play and fans to watch. Today’s game is very different, and there’re a number of Saints players crossing that line too often.

I’m not singling out Morgan Knowles, for there have been numerous players over the last 18 months spending too much time in the stands due to their discipline, but got it severely wrong when sent off just 20 seconds before the full-time hooter in the Betfred Challenge Cup win over Halifax last Friday.

Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of Morgan and that his best trait is his competitiveness and will to win, but was it worth risking such an aggressive action with so little time left on the clock and the win in the bag? The laws have tightened up so much on hitting the ball player, but in this instance Morgs went far too high, giving the referee no option to send him from the field.

This was his first game back from a previous five-game suspension, and now he’s been handed a further two matches on the sidelines which will see him miss Leeds away on Friday and the Magic Weekend duel with Huddersfield Giants.

Currently languishing in 7th place on the Betfred Super League table, Saints cannot keep losing their best players if they’re to peg back some of the teams above.

Onto a positive note – it was a dominant win for the champions against a very competitive Halifax side to reach the quarter-finals of the Betfred Challenge Cup.

It’s been a good few years since a Saints team ran out at The Shay! It was always a great place to play and it brought back some great memories for me. Fax has always been one of the heartland clubs in RL, and one with a very proud history. It was great to see circa 5000 fans come out to watch, with over 1000 Saints supporters making it across the Pennines.

We face Hull FC away next in the last eight of the Cup, but this week the focus is back on Betfred Super League action.

Saints head back up the M62 to face Leeds Rhinos at Headingley on Friday. The Rhinos went down 18-14 to Wigan in their Challenge Cup fixture on Saturday so will most certainly be up for the fight.

They’re also having a pretty torrid time in the domestic competition, currently sitting just one spot behind Saints in 8th.

I’ve been far from impressed by Leeds for a number of years now, despite them making the Grand Final last season. They look disjointed in attack, but do have a number of players who can be match winners on their day so we have to turn up with heads on!

I’m backing Saints to get the win by 12 points or more, which is 2/1 at Betfred.

 

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