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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Leeds can stay in touch with super St Helens

Rhinos should keep contest competitive against great rivals Saints

Top tryscorer Mark Percival has starred in St Helens's flying start to the season
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Betfred Super League
Sky Sports Arena, 7.45pm Friday

The Betfred Super League goes up a gear under the Friday night lights as Grand Final favourites St Helens square up to defending champions Leeds.

The Saints-Rhinos rivalry has become one of the fiercest in rugby league and Leeds could pose a real threat to the table-toppers' perfect record.

The super Saints have been outstanding in recording five consecutive victories, the most recent of which was a 30-12 demolition of Warrington.

Justin Holbrook’s team top the tries table with 26 and seven of those have come from Mark Percival, who is 13-10 to add to his tally against Leeds. However, their defence has been equally impressive with only 44 points scored against them.

The league leaders have suffered a blow with the loss of prop Alex Walmsley to a neck injury but Jon Wilkin returns to the squad.

Leeds will be missing Mitch Garbutt with a knee problem but they can welcome back Brad Dwyer who missed last weekend’s hard-fought win over Hull.

That was the Rhinos' third success in four Super League games in 2018. Their only defeat came when an injury-hit side went down at Widnes just days after flying back from the World Club Challenge in Australia.

Leeds haven’t caught the eye in the way Saints have this season but over the years they have proved they are the masters of playing in the kind of chilly, damp conditions that are forecast.

Brian McDermott’s boys are 11-4 to end Saints’s unbeaten run but they are of more interest with a ten-point start on the handicap.

You have to go back to 2012 to find the last time St Helens covered that line in this fixture and they may not find it easy to do so this time around.

Hull should be able to beat Salford with something to spare at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The Red Devils have just sold full-back Gareth O’Brien to Toronto and look set for a season of struggle.

Ian Watson’s team have won just two of their last 16 matches and the Airlie Birds ought to be able to cover the eight-point handicap.

The visitors are missing big-hitters Albert Kelly, Mickey Paea and Danny Houghton but that shouldn’t stop them repeating last season’s resounding victory in this fixture.

Leeds +10
2pts 10-11 general
Hull -8
2pts Evs Betfred

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Leeds's only defeat came when an injury-hit side went down at Widnes just days after flying back from the World Club Challenge in Australia
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