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The key battles that could decide Grand Final between St Helens and Leeds

St Helens loose forward Morgan Knowles is set for a big game after his club managed to overturn his two-match ban.

St Helens v Huddersfield Giants – Betfred Super League – Totally Wicked Stadium
St Helens v Huddersfield Giants – Betfred Super League – Totally Wicked Stadium

St Helens and Leeds will contest the 25th Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the individual battles that could determine the outcome.

Matty Lees (St Helens) v Mikolaj Oledzki (Leeds)

Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves – Betfred Super League – Emerald Headingley Stadium
Prop Mikolaj Oledzki is Mr Consistent for Leeds (PA Images/Richard Sellers)

These two giants will most likely be England team-mates in the World Cup, especially in the absence of first-choice prop Alex Walmsley through injury.

Lees, who plays well above his weight, stepped up his game in the semi-final in the absence of Walmsley and St Helens will need him to once more set the platform if they are to make it four wins in a row.

Oledzki has been a revelation for the Rhinos in 2022 and deservedly made his England debut in the mid-season international. The Gdansk-born prop has remarkable stamina and is capable of playing long minutes.

Jack Welsby (St Helens) v Blake Austin (Leeds)

St Helens v Salford Red Devils – Betfred Super League – Semi-Final – Totally Wicked Stadium
Jack Welsby has fond memories of the Grand Final (PA Images/Wil Matthews)

Welsby began the season at full-back but has spent most of it at stand-off following the loss of Lewis Dodd to injury and has demonstrated his versatility by excelling in the playmaking role.

The back-to-back Super League young player of the year is a wonderfully creative talent but also has a poacher’s eye for the tryline, as he showed in scoring Saints’ last-gasp winning try in the 2020 final.

Austin will be expected to shoulder most of the playmaking responsibilities for the Rhinos in the absence of his injured half-back partner Aidan Sezer and will look to bring his vast experience to bear on the big stage.

Morgan Knowles (St Helens) v Cameron Smith (Leeds)

Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves – Betfred Super League – Headingley Stadium
Cameron Smith is an unsung hero for Leeds but capable of rising to big occasion (PA Images/Will Matthews)

If you believe in fate, Knowles looks a good bet to be named man of the match after his club managed to overturn his two-game ban and he is third favourite with the bookmakers at 10-1 to lift the Harry Sunderland Trophy.

The England loose forward is a tackling machine with a prodigious work rate but is no mean handler of the ball.

Smith is a more naturally-talented loose forward who has the ball skills to slot into the halves if needed and, in the absence of Sezer, that could be a secret weapon up Rohan Smith’s sleeves.

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