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Page last updated at 06:24 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 07:24 UK

Long to steer Saints to victory

GRAND FINAL: Leeds v St Helens
Venue: Old Trafford Date: Saturday, 10 October 2009 Kick-off: 1800 BST
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra, live text on BBC Sport website, coverage on BBC Radio 5 Live, local radio. Live on Sky Sports 1

Sean Long will be playing his final game for St Helens
Sean Long's kicking game will be crucial

Justin Morgan
Hull KR coach Justin Morgan on Leeds v St Helens

At the start of the season, I set my Hull KR team the goal of winning the engage Super League.

I maintain it was a realistic target and our form this season proved we had a chance, but no-one can argue that the right two teams are in the Grand Final. They deserve to be there.

Leeds Rhinos and St Helens have been the most consistent teams and can find find levels of skill and fitness above every other side. Games between them this season have been of a higher intensity than any others.

Given that the players know each other so well, I think the long kicking game will be key at Old Trafford on Saturday.

As the two sides are evenly matched, they won't be looking to operate outside their normal parameters too much, so they are unlikely to try new things in a Grand Final.

The venue will be a factor too. Old Trafford is a football pitch, so the grass is shorter and with the game kicking off at 1800 BST, the surface will be slippier, so I'm not expecting many long-range tries. Line breaks, sure, but not long-range tries.

I think Saints are better rehearsed for a tight battle, especially given the pressure they withstood against Wigan and the previous week against Huddersfield

That means territory will be crucial. For that reason, the kicking game will be paramount.

Of the two teams, I think Saints' kicking game is better. Sean Long's tactical awareness is superb, and he's got other options behind him in Leon Pryce, Jon Wilkin and Kyle Eastmond to keep Leeds guessing.

The key for Leeds is to get territory close to Saints line. With an array of world-class finishers in their back pocket - Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Ali Lauitiiti - they are pretty deadly from close range.

It will be very tight on Saturday. Leeds have averaged eight tries a game over the last month or so but Saints are hardly conceding and their defence can give them the edge.

I think Saints are better rehearsed for a tight battle, especially given the pressure they withstood against Wigan last Saturday and the previous week against Huddersfield. Their defence will be massively confident given the play-off run they have had.

All this sways the pendulum towards St Helens.

If Leeds are to get the edge, then Kevin Sinfield will once again have to be their catalyst.

Brian McClennan and Kevin Sinfield
Will McClennan and Sinfield have any tricks up their sleeves?

He's just at home kicking the ball for position as he is directing his forwards and linking play to allow McGuire and Burrow more width.

His passing game is excellent and if he can get his team to go where he wants them to, then the Rhinos will be tough to beat.

Psychology will be a factor this time, regardless of what the players may tell you.

I don't like using the word revenge, but defeats by Leeds in the last two Grand Finals will certainly stimulate the Saints players.

They will also enjoy being underdogs. By the same token, I think Leeds will thrive in their status as League leaders.

Having said that, I look back at the season and just don't think the Rhinos have been put to the sword. They have in patches, but they have never really had to come from behind.

If Saints can get ahead, I'll be intrigued to see what Leeds have got.

The tactical approach of the two coaches will also be interesting.

PAUL FLETCHER'S BLOG

I cast my mind back to last year's final, when Leeds boss Brian McClennan tried some very specific things that came off, targeting certain Saints' players with their kicking game.

As for Saints, it has taken the players a while to get used to Mick Potter and his coaching style.

Yet Potts, like McClennan last year, has ensured his side have not suffered during the transition and got them back to the Grand Final.

Both men clearly know how to get the best out of their team and I can't wait to see if either springs a surprise on the day rather than sticking to the tried-and-trusted gameplan.

The game should be a classic, but everything for me leans towards a St Helens win, with the departing Long playing a starring role.

Justin Morgan was talking to BBC Radio 5 live's George Riley.



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see also
St Helens 10-18 Leeds Rhinos
10 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Gidley hopes for third time lucky
07 Oct 09 |  St Helens
Defence key in final - Flannery
06 Oct 09 |  St Helens
Leeds 27-20 Catalans
02 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
St Helens 14-10 Wigan
03 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Road to Old Trafford
25 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
The Jon Wilkin interview
30 Sep 09 |  Rugby League


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