The key battles that could decide Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds

The key battles that could decide Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds

St Helens and Leeds will contest the 25th Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the individual battles that could determine the outcome.

Matty Lees (St Helens) v Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds)

Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves – Betfred Super League – Emerald Headingley Stadium
Prop Mikolaj Oledzki is Mr Consistent for Leeds (PA Images/Richard Sellers)

These two giants will most likely be England team-mates in the World Cup, especially in the absence of first-choice prop Alex Walmsley through injury.

Lees, who plays well above his weight, stepped up his game in the semi-final in the absence of Walmsley and St Helens will need him to once more set the platform if they are to make it four wins in a row.

Oledzki has been a revelation for the Rhinos in 2022 and deservedly made his England debut in the mid-season international. The Gdansk-born prop has remarkable stamina and is capable of playing long minutes.

Jack Welsby (St Helens) v Blake Austin (Leeds)

St Helens v Salford Red Devils – Betfred Super League – Semi-Final – Totally Wicked Stadium
Jack Welsby has fond memories of the Grand Final (PA Images/Wil Matthews)

Welsby began the season at full-back but has spent most of it at stand-off following the loss of Lewis Dodd to injury and has demonstrated his versatility by excelling in the playmaking role.

The back-to-back Super League young player of the year is a wonderfully creative talent but also has a poacher’s eye for the tryline, as he showed in scoring Saints’ last-gasp winning try in the 2020 final.

Austin will be expected to shoulder most of the playmaking responsibilities for the Rhinos in the absence of his injured half-back partner Aidan Sezer and will look to bring his vast experience to bear on the big stage.

Morgan Knowles (St Helens) v Cameron Smith (Leeds)

Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves – Betfred Super League – Headingley Stadium
Cameron Smith is an unsung hero for Leeds but capable of rising to big occasion (PA Images/Will Matthews)

If you believe in fate, Knowles looks a good bet to be named man of the match after his club managed to overturn his two-game ban and he is third favourite with the bookmakers at 10-1 to lift the Harry Sunderland Trophy.

The England loose forward is a tackling machine with a prodigious work rate but is no mean handler of the ball.

Smith is a more naturally-talented loose forward who has the ball skills to slot into the halves if needed and, in the absence of Sezer, that could be a secret weapon up Rohan Smith’s sleeves.