Yates' view: Saints cannot take the Rhinos lightly despite their lowly position

Alex Walmsley scores a try.against Leeds Rhinos earlier in the season. Picture: SWPix
Alex Walmsley scores a try.against Leeds Rhinos earlier in the season. Picture: SWPix

Saints have turned the Totally Wicked Stadium into a fortress where they remain unbeaten in all Betford Super League encounters this year.


Only twice have their fans been on genuine tenterhooks about the outcome of a home match in 2019 and apart from Salford Red Devils, who came within a whisker of picking up both points when entering the lion's den, no one other than Leeds Rhinos have really threatened to overturn the league leaders.

That's why Saints cannot take their Yorkshire rivals lightly when they clash on Friday night, even though the Loiners are experiencing one of their poorest season since the sports switched to summer which led to Aussie head coach Dave Furner being sacked after just 14 league matches and temporarily replaced by Richard Agar .

The Rhinos are currently languishing close to the basement of the table - and the thought of them being involved in the relegation battle, or slipping out of the top flight at the end of 2019, is almost unthinkable,

But Saints will be showing no mercy against rivals who have pipped them at the post in so many Grand Finals something which still hurts.

Most games between the cross-Pennine clubs in the past couple of decades have been classic and nerve-shredding showdowns, including Saints dramatic 27-20 home victory in February when they wiped out a 22-10 interval deficit and I expect them to collect maximum points again this time around.

However, head coach Justin Holbrook isn't counting his chickens before they hatch, insisting: ''Leeds have so many dangerous players in their ranks that we will have to play well to win.They are a threat from everywhere and we will have to be aware of that.''

He added: ''In the middle, Trent Merrin and Adam Cuthbertson have great ability to off-load the ball and they possess fast outside backs.

''Konrad Hurrell is also really strong and in the halves they have Richie Myler, who controls games well. They also have quick nines with Brad Dwyer or Matt Parcell flying out at hooker.''

Tom Briscoe, scorer of seven tries in 19 appearance this season, is relishing the prospect of facing the table-toppers and hoping to reverse the early season result at the same venue.

''It was disappointing to lose in that way, '' said Briscoe.

"Over the last two weeks we've put in a couple of good performances, so hopefully we can build on that and take a bit of confidence into what will be a very tough game.''

He added: "We're looking more of a unit now, but we need to build on that because Saints are the best attacking team in the competition and we know we need to be on our guard there."

SOMETIMES you have a wry smile when trying to fathom the different reactions of Rugby League supporters to their club coach which can change just like the wind.

Take Super League leaders Saints as a prime example of the tickle nature of fans.

Ahead of their match in London a couple of weeks ago, boss Justin Holbrook decided to rest a fistful of players who he felt needed a break to recharge their batteries.

A sensible decision in many people's eyes due to how many points the club had and one defeat wouldn't exactly blow them off course.

It happened - rather surprisingly - but contrary to what the critics said the raft of changes wasn't the reason behind the setback.

Holbrook picked a squad which, on paper, he still felt capable of collecting both points but as a team they had an off-day and it was a case of taking the result on the chin.

Now fast forward to last Friday when most of the absentees returned to the fold re-energised and made a major contribution to the the host's 38-2 victory.

In fact, three of them, Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson and Jonny Lomax, posted all but four of the Saints' points on the night and went a long way to vindicate Holbrook's decision to ring the changes even in defeat at London.