Foster a good call against the Rhinos
St Helens v Leeds - Friday 20:00 - Sky Sports 2
St Helens' first win in their last three matches, against the struggling Crusaders, was enough to consolidate their play-off position and leave the Saints hot on the heels of the Super League's leading pack. Royce Simmons and his men can smell the likes of Warrington and Wigan who loiter just two points above them in the table, but this weekend they need no further motivation than to look at the team they are facing.
To say there is no love lost between the Saints and the Rhinos would be an understatement. Three Grand Final defeats in the last four seasons at the hands of the Rhinos has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of Saints players, management and fans alike. Some form of revenge was exacted upon the Yorkshire men in March when the travelling Saints recorded an emphatic 30-16 victory at Headingley. This Friday night sees St Helens with the opportunity to complete a league double over their big rivals and the 80 minute betting sees them priced up as favourites at 1/3 compared to the 9/4 on offer for Leeds.
The Rhinos will be in no mood to surrender any points or bragging rights to Saints though. Leeds will be looking to bounce straight back from the 42-6 hammering by the Warrington Wolves last week, a crushing defeat that brought to an end their four game winning streak. The spread on the handicap is set at eight points, so Saints -8 and Leeds +8 are both priced at 10/11.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott could pair up Danny McGuire (14/1 first try scorer) and Rob Borrow (7/4 anytime try scorer) at half-back for the first time this year. McGuire and Burrow have been the Rhinos' regular half-back combination since 2006 but injury to the former means they have not played together since September. If they are reunited, it could mean a return to loose-forward for Kevin Sinfield (20/1 last try scorer). Brent Webb should be available for McDermott after missing the last three matches with a dead leg but the experienced Keith Senior will take no further participation this campaign after a season-ending injury.
If the Rhino's think they have had it bad with injuries then they should take a look at the treatment room at the Stobart Stadium. Saints winger Ade Gardner is the latest on the injury list after tearing his Achilles last week. Gardner joins the likes of Leon Pryce, Gary Wheeler, Chris Flannery and Scott Moore who are unavailable to coach Royce Simmons. St Helens prop Josh Perry will miss the clash after being hit with a one-match ban by the Rugby Football League for fighting in the win over Crusaders.
One man the Rhinos will need to keep an eye on is the youngster Jamie Foster. St Helens born and bred, Foster finished with 16 points from a brace of tries and four goals from five attempts in last week's victory over Crusaders. If he can reproduce that flying form he will certainly be worth a punt at 8/1 (first try scorer) or 4/7 (anytime try scorer).
My recommendation for this game is for a Saints win but by a far closer scoreline than Leeds lost out to the Wolves. I reckon it'll be close, with St Helens nicking it by a few points. Therefore I would go for St Helens by 6-10 points at 17/4 and for the second half to be the highest scoring half at 4/6.