Match Preview – Leeds vs St Helens

Marc Bazeley


We take a statistical look at how last season’s Grand Finalists have been faring in 2023 ahead of Leeds Rhinos hosting St Helens as part of a men’s and women’s double-header on Friday; watch both games at Headingley live on Sky Sports Arena from 5pm

Last Updated: 26/05/23 8:51am

St Helens and Leeds face off again in a Grand Final rematch on Friday

Rugby league fans did not have to wait long for last year’s Grand Finalists to go head-to-head in the 2023 Betfred Super League season – and the Round 3 encounter between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos did not disappoint.

The March clash at Totally Wicked Stadium saw last year’s beaten finalists snatch a 25-24 victory over the then-recently crowned world champions thanks to Rhinos half-back Blake Austin slotting over a drop goal with 18 seconds remaining.

Now they meet again on Leeds’ home turf of Headingley on Friday night, live on Sky Sports, and with 12 rounds of the regular season already in the books we take a statistical look at how the two teams have been faring so far in 2023…

Highlights of the Betfred Super League Clash between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

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Highlights of the Betfred Super League Clash between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

Highlights of the Betfred Super League Clash between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.

Similar story for Rhinos

Friday’s match against Saints marks a year and 11 days since Rohan Smith took charge of Leeds for the first time, and they are undeniably in a better position in Super League than they were just over 12 months ago.

Smith arrived from Australia with the Rhinos embroiled in the relegation battle but oversaw a remarkable revival which saw them snatch a place in the play-offs in the final round of the regular season and then storm to the Grand Final where they went down 24-12 to St Helens.

A 40-18 victory away to Wigan Warriors in the last round of Super League matches sees them sitting two points outside the play-offs at present, but a deeper dive into the numbers shows the overall picture is remarkably similar to last year.

Having won half of their games so far in 2023, the Rhinos’ win percentage and points per game tallies are just slightly below last years totals of 51.9 percent and 1.07 respectively. The number of points they are scoring in a game is slightly down too, albeit with a marginally better defensive record.

Their tackle success rate in defence, and average number of tackle busts and clean breaks with the ball in hand as a team have held up remarkably similar.

Leeds Rhinos 2022 vs 2023 (Super League regular season)

2022 2023
Win % 51.9 50.0
Points per game 1.07 1.0
Ave. points scored 21.4 20.0
Ave. points conceded 19.5 19.3
Ave. metres gained 1,294.8 1,177.9
Ave. metres per carry 7.0 6.4
Ave. tackle busts per game 32.6 32.3
Ave. clean breaks per game 4.8 4.8
Tackle success % 85.2 85.2

However, one area of concern for head coach Smith might be Leeds, as a team, are averaging significantly fewer metres per game and metres per carry than in 2022 – notable due to the fact the team which makes the most metres in a game generally goes on to take victory.

Saints struggling in attack

Paul Wellens’ reign as St Helens head coach could hardly have got off to a better start as they followed up clinching a fourth-straight Super League title last October with heading down to Australia to beat reigning NRL kings Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge.

But on the domestic front, the quest for an unprecedented fifth-straight Super League title has hit a bump in the first half of the season, with the reigning champions not being helped by injuries which have sidelined key players at various points so far.

Five defeats from their 11 games so far have left their win percentage far below the 77.7 percent from 2022, while they have not lost more than six games during the league season since 2017 when they finished fourth after the Super Eights with 13 losses.

St Helens 2022 vs 2023 (Super League regular season)

2022 2023
Win % 77.7 54.5
Points per game 1.5 1.3
Ave. points scored 24.9 19.8
Ave. points conceded 13.9 14.2
Ave. metres gained 1,330.7 1,293.9
Ave. metres per carry 7.2 6.2
Ave. tackle busts per game 34.2 31.9
Ave. clean breaks per game 5.8 4.2
Tackle success % 86.4 85.6

Defensively though, Saints are only slightly worse off than last year in terms of points conceded per game. It is their attack which has been blunted so far, with their average points scored per game down to 19.8 from 24.9 in 2022.

Like the Rhinos, they have been making fewer metres in games as a team too, with their average total metres made dipping below 1,300 and St Helens making one metre fewer per carry this season as well.

Stand-out individuals

He may not grab the headlines every week but, along with sharing a name with one of the sport’s modern-day greats, Cameron Smith has consistently shown exactly why he is such a valuable part of Leeds’ team in both attack and defence this year.

The 24-year-old back row has scored four tries and assisted three more so far this year, along with assisting three line-breaks to go with the five he has made himself. Only winger Nene Macdonald has broken more tackles for the Rhinos than Smith’s 42 as well.

Cameron Smith has been strong in both attack and defence for Leeds

Cameron Smith has been strong in both attack and defence for Leeds

His 12 offloads rank third for Leeds too, while on the defensive side he has the highest tackle success rate in the team of 92.3 percent. That is even more impressive when you consider Smith is averaging a team-highest 42.8 tackles per game and has made more in the competition than any other player (514).

It is a former Rhinos player who could make a difference for St Helens on Friday as they welcome back Konrad Hurrell following two weeks on the sidelines due to neck injury.

The Tonga international centre is still one of Super League’s most potent ball-carrying threats, averaging more post-contact metres per game than any other player in the competition so far in 2023 with 87.9. He has gained more metres from offloads than anyone else too (248.5).

Hurrell ranks in the top 10 of Super League for metres per game (186) and offloads (21) too. Only Jack Welsby has made more than his six line-breaks for Saints, while the 31-year-old has assisted the same amount along with scoring four tries and assisting three.

Watch Friday’s rematch of last year’s Betfred Super League Grand Final as part of a double-header which sees Leeds Rhinos and St Helens’ women’s and men’s teams clash at Headingley live on Sky Sports. Coverage starts on Sky Sports Arena from 5pm. Also stream on NOW TV.

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