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Super League - Rugby League: Alex Hilton's Grand Final preview

The two most successful sides in Super League square off on Saturday, with St Helens and Leeds Rhinos each looking to win the big prize for the ninth time.

Defending champions Saints are also looking to create history by winning the title for the fourth consecutive year and recent meetings suggest that the Rhinos have it all to do in their first Grand Final appearance for four years.

Expert Alex Hilton highlights the best bets and stats to ensure a profitable end to the season for rugby league punters.

WhatSt Helens vs. Leeds Rhinos
WhereOld Trafford, Manchester
When18:00, Saturday 24th September 2022
How to watchSky Sports Arena
OddsSt Helens 4/9, Leeds Rhinos 7/4

In-form Rhinos will need a thick skin

St Helens are on the brink of history and recent finals have seen Salford, Wigan and Catalans all fail to stop the Red Vee from winning the last three Grand Finals.

Unsurprisingly the reigning champions are warm 4/9 favourites to retain their title with the Rhinos 7/4 underdogs.

Leeds arrive in Manchester as the form side in Super League, having won 13 of their last 18 matches to catapult themselves from the doldrums to title contenders in just four months.

New coach Rohan Smith arrived in May and has overseen a remarkable turnaround, but his biggest job is to find a way of finally beating the Saints.

Leeds have lost their last 11 meetings with the champions and their performances make for pretty miserable reading.

The last seven tussles have yielded an aggregate score of 258-52 in Saints' favour, with the Rhinos limited to single-figure scores on three occasions and nilled twice over that sequence of fixtures.

The Rhinos lost both regular-season meetings in 2022, 42-12 and 26-0, figures that highlight the enormity of the task facing Smith's men on Saturday.

Saints have covered the handicap in eight of their last nine meetings with Leeds, so a six-point line at 1/1 on Saturday looks well within reach for the champions, who say goodbye to their coach Kristian Woolf as he heads off to the NRL and an assistant coach role with new side the Dolphins.

Woolf will want to leave on a high and his players will be keen to see he does.

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Points often at a premium, maybe not this time

The Grand Final has been a notoriously tight contest in recent seasons, but this one could turn out to be a more comfortable affair.

Leeds haven't been to the stage of the competition for four years and the majority of their squad are facing this fixture for the first time. That could lead to big-game nerves and Saints are just the side to take advantage, with most of their squad seasoned Grand Final campaigners.

They've been there and got the T-shirt with champions emblazoned across it several times and they can take this latest contest in their stride and it helps to have the best defence, which Saints had across 28 rounds of the regular season.

Just 386 points were conceded at a rate of just under 14 per game and it is hard to see Leeds breaking through given their recent struggles in this contest.

Points will be taken at every opportunity, so either side to open the scoring courtesy of a penalty kick looks a decent bet at 5/1, while a drop goal to be scored is also worth considering at 12/5.

Makinson the man for the big occasion

Saints winger Tommy Makinson has had a fantastic season, scoring 22 tries in 21 matches, while he has also booted 71 goals in the process.

If his side gets on a roll he could have a big part to play and he should be at the top of the list for those fancying first tryscorer and player of the match wagers.

Makinson's team-mate Joe Batchelor has also hit form at the right time, bagging three tries in his last two outings and should also be considered in both markets.

Leeds are too good to be dismissed completely and if they are to challenge the champions, Rhyse Martin can be expected to be at the heart of matters for the Rhinos as he returns from suspension.

His kicking skills are some of the best in the competition and that could lead to player of the match honours for the influential back-rower at 14/1.

By Alex Hilton

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