After some mixed results in pre-season for both teams, it could be an exciting start to the new season as St Helens and Leeds open the campaign under the floodlights on Thursday evening. Saints look to hand out some debuts for this match, while Leeds look to get back on track after a disjointed season in 2016.

Last Time Out

Saints had a couple of pre-season friendlies to mull over as they prepare to better their 2016 campaign. A convincing 16-0 win against Widnes showed great promise in the St Helens youth, many of which will be looking to make debuts this time round. A serious injury to Matty Smith was the talking point of the game, and maybe unsettled the Saints camp as they went on to lose their following pre-season bout against Castleford. Coach Kieron Cunningham said St Helens were second best across the 80 minutes, with errors costing them a result, they lost 22-6.

Leeds lacked consistency last year, as they failed to register a repeat of their treble winning season in 2015. This theme seems to have carried through in to their pre-season efforts, as they won three and lost two from the five fixtures played. They suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day, but soon bounced back with wins over the Hunslet Hawks, Hull KR and Featherstone Rovers. However, they ended January with a defeat to Doncaster, in a close-fought 35-34 loss.

Key Battle

For this game, it’ll be a battle of the best wingers. Both teams will be hoping to test each other in attack, and this is where the wingers show their full potential with speed, accuracy and the final product getting over the whitewash.

Leeds have the prospect of Ryan Hall to cause problems for the home side. Hall is one of the finest wingers in Super League, he’s always one of the top priorities for the National squad and is an excellent finisher on the field. His towering stance gives Leeds an advantage in the air, they’ll be looking to exploit this on Thursday night.

For St Helens, Adam Swift will be hoping to start the year with a few tries to his name. He scored the only try in the Saints’ loss to Castleford in pre-season, and was an ever present name on the scoresheets last year. Although Leeds have the height advantage in Hall, St Helens are thankful for the speed advantage through Swift, he could cause some real problems this year.

Prediction

I think this will be a fiery opener to the 2017 Betfred Super League. Both sides have real quality and depth in their squads, which is likely to see some well-matched battles across the field. I expect to see plenty of points on the board, opening week can be a difficult test in getting the defence spot on, but I think Saints will steal the win – St Helens by 8.

Who will win the opening Super League match?

Squads

St Helens: 1. Jonny Lomax, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Joe Greenwood, 12. Jon Wilkin, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Adam Walker, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Tommy Lee, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 20. Morgan Knowles, 23. Jack Ashworth, 24. Danny Richardson.

Leeds Rhinos: 1. Ashton Golding, 2. Tom Briscoe, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Joel Moon, 5. Ryan Hall, 6. Danny McGuire, 7. Rob Burrow, 9. Matt Parcell, 10. Adam Cuthbertson, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Ablett, 13. Stevie Ward, 14. Liam Sutcliffe, 16. Brad Singleton, 17. Mitch Garbutt, 18. Jimmy Keinhorst, 20. Anthony Mullally, 23. Jack Ormondroyd, 24. Jordan Baldwinson.