IT IS no surprise, given the calibre of player involved on both sides, that Leeds Rhinos’ head coach Dave Furner has promised “very good, very fast football” in tonight’s game at St Helens.
For one, the West Yorkshire club have certainly found their rhythm after turning on the style to get their opening win at Salford Red Devils on Sunday. Saints, on the other hand, have always had it. Rhythm and style as well as pace and strength were in abundance during victory against champions Wigan Warriors.
Last year’s League Leaders then dug in to win at the finish at Wakefield Trinity so it is obvious why this evening’s fixture has whetted the appetite of many.
For instance, what about the match-up of Leeds’s Tonga centre Konrad Hurrell against St Helens’ Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama, two of Super League’s big NRL signings in 2019? Furner said: “Across the board, in particular both sides, the centres are going to be a fair clash.
“(Mark) Percival versus Kallum (Watkins) will be a very good battle, too. They have some very good strike players, which we have to be careful of; we can’t focus on one.
“There’ll be some very fast and very good football played. Saints like to play fast and do shift it.
“They obviously have some players there who are very good at getting their team forward. Then (James) Roby’s a world-class player, so we need to match that and null and void some of those areas.
“But I’d like to see our team play the football we’re capable of. That’s what we’ve focused on.”
Leeds versus Saints fixtures generally bring the best out of each side regardless and Furner yesterday recollected Rhinos’ famous Challenge Cup semi-final victory over them in 2003.
Back then, a young Kevin Sinfield – now Leeds’s director of rugby – slotted a touchline conversion to take the game into extra-time, his side eventually progressing to the final in Cardiff.
Ironically, Furner had not long since handed over the reins as goalkicker and he said: “It was tremendous, a dream goal-kick.
“Still to this day it is if not the best then one of the best goal-kicks in those circumstances in that type of game that I’ve ever been involved in or watched.
“I am very glad he was doing the goalkicking that day, not me.”