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Superleague Grand Final preview

After last week's great tipping performance in the NRL, James Jack, @materialista27, returns with his assessment of the northern hemisphere's biggest club match in rugby league.

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Later today, in a repeat of this season's Challenge Cup final, Warrington and Leeds meet in the Super League grand final. Both sides came through brutal semi finals to book their Old Trafford spot - Warrington avenged their play-off week one loss to St Helens, whilst Leeds went forward passed defeated the table topping Wigan Warriors.

The cup holders, Warrington have been marked as the bookies favourites, but the Rhinos can't be underestimated especially with their wealth of Grand Final experience. They will be lining up for their seventh Grand Final in nine years, whilst for Warrington, it's a totally new experience. With this in mind, many could question why the Wolves are favourites, they finished 9 points in front of the Rhinos in the table, but they proved at Wembley that they can topple the Rhinos, and will be motivated in their quest to do the double.

Experience
No team has won more Grand Finals than the current Heinz Big Soup World Club Champions, Leeds Rhinos. Experience can count for everything in a game like this and Leeds have already proved that they can dominate a final, even as underdogs. Last year, the Rhinos came from 5th to beat the Saints comfortably 32-16 in the final. To win it this year, they will once again have to come from 5th, having beaten Wakefield, Catalans and Wigan en route. Kevin Sinfield’s astute kicking game in last week’s win at the DW Stadium was proof that experience can win you games in knock-out rugby, whilst selflessly killing the spectacle, a skill which Leeds excel at.

Warrington, on the other hand, have all the knowledge of knock-out stages too. As I mentioned before they have featured in three of the last four Wembley finals. Old Trafford is a whole new proposition, but they at least have one man who knows how to win there. Their power-house prop, Adrian Morley, won a Grand Final ring in 2005 whilst on loan at the Bradford Bulls from Sydney City Roosters. He may not have appeared in as many Grand Finals as the majority of the Leeds team, but he certainly oozes experience. Morley is in his 6th season with the Wolves, having previously played 149 games for Leeds from 1994 – 2000.

Nobody has more Grand Final experience than Leeds forward Jamie Peacock. The England and Rhinos prop will be playing in his 10th Grand Final on Saturday night having previously won seven. Peacock led Bradford to three titles before making the switch to arch-rivals Leeds in 2006. If the Rhinos win, look forward to his interview post-match, it’ll be a treat for you if you enjoy incomprehensible mumblings. Great player, horrible speaker. Allegedly Peacock answers his phone, “Jamie Peacock, Great Britain and England Captain” despite the Lions being disbanded after their 2008 tour.

Where the game will be won
Cup Finals can be decided by the tiniest of margins. Whether it is a drop goal from Kevin Sinfield or even a 40/20 from the boot of Lee Briers, one moment can turn the game on its head.

Saturday will see two teams going into the game off the back of great semi-final performances.

Leeds edged out Wigan 13-12, even though they were outscored by two tries to one and largely outplayed. One lucky intercept try and the boot of Kevin Sinfield proved the difference between the two sides and the way he directed his troops around the field instilled great confidence in his side going into the final.

Warrington were 36-18 victors over St. Helens, who had beaten them in the first week of the playoffs; however their flare and finishing prowess proved the difference in the end. The Wolves will be calling on all their creative men at Old Trafford to hurt Leeds early on. Leeds have scored first on 17 occasions this season so Warrington will be looking to get out of the blocks early to counteract that.

If the game is played down the middle, then Warrington have muscle to compete and overwhelm any team they face. Gareth Carvell, Man of Steel nominee Ben Westwood and Ben Harrison are three men who fit that bill. However should the game suddenly descend into a test of skill, Wire have Briers, Myler, Hodgson and a dog’s best friend Joel Monaghan.

Leeds may look to spread the ball early. The likes of Kallum Watkins, Ben Jones Bishop and Zak Hardaker have pace to burn and getting it out to them may catch the Wolves on the back foot. That will be a relief for Rhinos fans are these three are dire in defence, schoolboy stuff.

Either way, this game is likely to be the contest we all expect, or certainly wish it to be. Leeds have been there and done it and Warrington are the current cup kings.

If Warrington are to win then Lee Briers will need to be in fine form; the 34 year-old is considered the most likely to lift the Harry Sunderland Trophy, but that is something he will want to put to the back of his mind. However, Leeds have a team to be proud of also, and will be skippered by Kevin Sinfield who will lead out his team for the seventh time. Personally I hope they both lose, but that can’t happen. Just whatever you do watch it on mute.
Sky Sports 1 – 1730, kick off 1800

Warrington: Ryan Atkins, Lee Briers, Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper, Simon Grix, Ben Harrison, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Brett Hodgson, Tyrone McCarthy, Joel Monaghan, Michael Monaghan, Adrian Morley, Richie Myler, Stefan Ratchford, Chris Riley, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Paul Wood.

Leeds: Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Zak Hardaker, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield, Brett Delaney, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Chris Clarkson, Darrell Griffin, Richard Moore, Stevie Ward, Shaun Lunt.

Referee: Richard Silverwood
Video-Referee: Phil Bentham

ADVICE
4pts drop goal in the match : 7/4 generally (Briers and Sinfield will take any opportunity to kick one, even if their team is 20 points in front)

2pts Ryan Atkins first try : 12/1 Sportingbet (Leeds right side defence is amateur)

1pt EW Jamie Peacock first try : 66/1 William Hill (scored tries in a few big games, against Australia in Sydney in 2006, his 5m barge-over effort will typify this game)

2pts Richie Myler man of the match : 14/1 generally (while most of Leeds’ attention will be on Briers, Myler will be free to control this game from halfback, as have the last two Harry Sunderland medal winners)

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