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Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 7:37 pm Post subject: 2012 Super League Grand Final Preview
SUPER LEAGUE GRAND FINAL PREVIEW
Saturdays see the culmination of rugby league’s club season as Super League reaches it’s climax at Old Trafford where a couple of old rivals meet.
Leeds meet Warrington with the sides familiar with each other in big finals having met in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in two of the past three seasons including this year.
Warrington won both games and quite convincingly too, 30-6 in 2010 and 35-18 this time.
With Warrington finishing second in this years regular season and Leeds languishing down in 5th (and in danger of missing out altogether at one stage) the thinking may be that the Wolves are shoe-ins for this game but that is to ignore the superb record Leeds have in the play-offs and the final in particular.
The Rhinos are the reigning champs after reaching the final last time in very similar circumstances to this year. They finished down the table and after beating Hull and Huddersfield they then faced Warrington in the semi-final, a Warrington side who had cruised through the regular season and who were huge favourites to claim not only a final spot but to win the whole thing and who were 12 point fav‘s for this game. Of course the Rhinos won the game and went on to claim the title with a decisive victory over the favoured St Helens in what was considered a big surprise to the end of the season but a look at the Leeds record shows that we should not be shocked by anything the Rhinos do in this competition.
Leeds have dominated this Grand Final to the extent that only twice in the last nine finals they have not appeared at Old Trafford and even more impressively they have been victorious five times, including four of the last five finals - impressive stuff from a team that thrives on the big occasion, they have been challenge cup runners-up in all of the last three years as well.
In contrast Warrington are here for their first visit to the big game and until they won the challenge cup in 2009 were considered bottlers by many when it came to winning crucial games. They have put that behind them as they have won that cup three times in the last four years. But it is their failure to even reach the final of the play-offs when they have been perennial favourites that still has some muttering about them being flat track bullies who can’t get it done when it matters - now they have put that to rest, well maybe in they win they have.
Warrington made the play-offs in the easy fashion they were expected to but they attracted some criticism from some quarters by fielding weakened teams against what they considered weaker opposition and it backfired to the extent that they missed out on winning the minor Premiership by a point to Wigan after upset defeats against Salford and London, but they have reached Old Trafford for the first time so maybe Tony Smith knew what he was doing after all.
They made heavy weather in the play-offs to start with as they lost home field advantage after losing to the Saints, they then had to see off Hull before a return showdown at St Helens with a trip to the Grand Final on the line. They trailed at the half but a blistering second period saw them overcome their opponents and deny everyone a second straight Leeds - Saints final.
Leeds, as mentioned, only managed a 5th place spot on the final league ladder but maybe the World Club Challenge had something to do with that. They beat Manly at Headingley in February to win that for the third time in seven years.
They scraped into the play-offs but saw off Wakefield with relative comfort and then had two monumental away victories.
The trip to Southern France is a tough one and Leeds had lost their just a few weeks previously but the play-offs are when the Rhinos catch fire and once again they showed their mettle with a gutsy 27-20 win over the Catalan Dragons.
Next up was an even tougher trip, a trip to the minor Premiers Wigan who were 10 point favourites for thegame and desperate to make up for the disappointment of last season. It was not to be for Wigan as they suffered play-off heartbreak once more as the Rhinos ground out a 13-12 victory after leading 11-0 at the half, this being all the more impressive with Danny McGuire missing having had to sit out through suspension.
So, who wins the final? Well they have met three times this season with Warrington winning the cup final by 17 points and they’re home league game by 19 points while Leeds won the Headingley match up by 8.
Both sides had impeccable home records but the away records had flaws with Leeds losing 8 league games on the road and Warrington lost 5 as well as drawing at Hull.
Both teams will be at full strength with Danny McGuire back to bolster the Rhinos.
Leeds have been their, done it and excel at it, experience counts for plenty and they have bags of it in this fixture. Warrington come to Old Trafford as novices which would be a huge disadvantage were it not for their recent cup triumphs and that may be the key to the match. Having won on the big Wembley stage, and beating Leeds twice in the process, they will have no fear from the occasion and there is little doubt that they are the better all round team, the regular season table tells us that, and they are worthy favourites. They can cover the 6 point spread to win their first Super League Champions title. Against just about anyone else in this spot I would side with the Rhinos but Wolves are the better team and should win by at least 10 but if Leeds do pull out another sensation nobody should be too shocked but I will be backing the Wolves. _________________ My Twitter https://twitter.com/@billsghost http://www.olbg.com/blogs/wildbillsghost
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