Brown: We relish the big games

St Helens Jonny Lomax is tackled by Hull Kingston Rovers' Constantine Mika (left) and Lincoln Withers during the Super League Elimination Play Off at Langtree Park, St Helen
St Helens Jonny Lomax is tackled by Hull Kingston Rovers' Constantine Mika (left) and Lincoln Withers during the Super League Elimination Play Off at Langtree Park, St Helen
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Saints and Leeds Rhinos - the two most successful and consistent clubs in the play-off era - come face-to-face at Headingley on Friday night in what is a win or bust mouth-watering showdown.

The victors will move one step closer to the Grand Final next month - familiar territory for long-standing rivals who have locked horns at Old Trafford no fewer than four times since 2007.

Leeds, winner of the trophy a record six times, will go into this preliminary semi-final as favourites to progress in the competition but in-form

Saints, who have only lost one of their previous eight outings, will be exuding self-belief and will also travel across the Pennines in the knowledge that on their last visit to the home of the champions in May they emerged 30-22 winners.

Head coach Nathan Brown said yesterday: “Saints have generally done well in the big games over the years and there’s few bigger than this.

“We are confident heading into what will be a tough test and if we can take our current form into the game, I am sure we will give a good account of ourselves.

“The motivation is there to stay alive and give us a shot at Old Trafford.”

Jon Wilkin, who has experienced both agony and ecstasy playing in a Grand Final, said: “As a club associated with success, we don’t want it to change.

“Leeds are a quality side and play well under pressure but we need to match them and if we do hopefully we will get the right result.”

Wilkin was substituted late on in Saturday’s 46-10 sudden death play-off victory over Hull KR at Langtree Park after picking up a minor injury but like Jonny Lomax, who handed his kicking duties over to Jordan Turner when suffering an early knock, is expected to be fit.

Brown also withdrew hooker James Roby after 66 minutes of his second comeback game but insisted it was a precautionary measure rather than any reaction to an ankle injury which had kept him sidelined for five games.

“We have one or two bumps and bruises but hopefully no major injury problems,” said Brown, who is expected to name an unchanged squad for the third successive game.

Tickets for the eagerly-awaited clash are selling well and fans are urged to buy now to avoid possible disappoinment.

The club’s allocation provides seats in the main stand and the western terrace.

* Saints’ Academy has been awarded a Grade One accreditation - with the RFL rating the club’s junior development system “outstanding”.

The governing body focuses on the achievements of each academy over a prolonged period, the quality of leadership on show, player development and how well young players are looked after.

Saints were one of just three academies awarded Grade One status this year.

“St Helens continues to be an outstanding Academy,” the governing body’s report said.

“This is underpinned by strong values and beliefs on player development which permeate from the senior management within the club.

“There is a strong culture of academy players sustaining the first team over many years which has been brought about through committed staff.”