It’s not just bookmaker odds that Leeds will be looking to establish on Friday night.
The victory at Totally Wicked Stadium against St Helens this weekend will ensure a return to the Super League Grand Final for the first time in four years. According to recent Rhino history, this is a drought long enough for a club that effectively made Old Trafford their home away from home during the summer months.
However, they face a huge challenge not only against the reigning Super League champions but also against their own recent form against the Saints both away and in general. Leeds have lost their last eight games in all competitions to St Helens at home and away, dating back to the start of the 2018 season.
That night they were victorious 28-20 at Totally Wicked Stadium with a side almost unrecognizable from the one entering the field on Friday night in the play-offs.
Of this team which recorded Leeds’ last victory against the Saints, only Tom Briscoe, Ash Handley, Richie Myler, Jack Walker, Cameron Smith and Mikolaj Oledzki remain, with the other 12 players now retired or playing for d ‘other clubs. This perhaps underscores the magnitude of the changes that have taken place at Headingley since the Rhinos’ last win in 2017.
Since then there have been a few close losses – including a point loss to Headingley in the summer of 2018 – but there have also been overall losses for the Rhinos.
One of the biggest of these came just three weeks ago, when a young and understaffed Leeds side were beaten 40-6 at the Totally Wicked Stadium. It was the Saints’ eighth consecutive victory over Leeds, but also their fifth on the rebound at home.
The last four losses in particular make reading painful. In those four losses, Leeds conceded 154 points, scoring just 32 points in response. They were eliminated at Headingley last August in a humiliating manner, losing 48-0.
Victories for Leeds when St Helens moved into their new home were initially much easier to find, with the Rhinos winning two of their first four visits there. But since then it has been a fruitless journey for anyone associated with the club, with Leeds almost always coming back empty-handed.
But if that finally changes on Friday night, there will be more to celebrate than just a victory in St Helens. And Leeds has a centuries-old tradition of saving the best for the times that really matter, after all.
Leeds’ eight-game winless streak against St Helens
St Helens 40-6 Leeds (Super League, September 10, 2021)
St Helens 26-18 Leeds (Challenge Cup, April 10, 2021)
St Helens 40-8 Leeds (Super League, 23 October 2020)
Leeds 0-48 St Helens (Super League, Aug 9, 2020)
Leeds 20-36 St Helens (Super League, Aug 15, 2019)
St Helens 36-10 Leeds (Super League, Jun 21, 2019)
St Helens 27-22 Leeds (Super League, February 22, 2019)
Leeds 22-23 St Helens (Super League, 15 Jun 2018)