Super League's play-off system is at its most compelling when teams are striving to prevent their seasons ending in anti-climax and that is the situation St Helens and Leeds find themselves in tonight.
The difference is that Saints, the reigning champions, have already achieved great things this year – winning the World Club Championship and the Challenge Cup – while Leeds have experienced little but turmoil and disappointment.
With the loss of Iestyn Harris and the failure of some of their overseas signings to make an impact, the responsibility at Leeds has fallen on two groups of players – the old retainers and the young prospects.
Prominent among the former is Francis Cummins. With his place in the side apparently under pressure following the ill-fated recruitment of Brett Mullins, not only has he played in every match but he has also taken over from Harris as captain. "We knew Iestyn was going, but we thought it might be the end of the season," Cummins said . "It's just one of the things we've had to deal with."
Despite reports in Australia hinting that some of Leeds' Antipodeans have been less than complimentary about Daryl Powell, who took over from Dean Lance as coach in mid-season, Cummins insists that "he has all the lads' backing. Even experienced coaches would have struggled this season."
Leeds have three players back after missing last week's thrashing at Bradford – Tonie Carroll, Matt Diskin and Andy Hay – with Jamie Mathiou making what could be his final appearance from the bench.
Saints have John Stankevitch back after a leg injury that kept him out of the defeat at Wigan last week, but Keiron Cunningham and Tony Stewart face fitness testsReuse content