Super League 2019 boils down to Saturday's Grand Final showdown at Old Trafford and St Helens can reign supreme and lift the trophy for the sixth time says our man Phil Spink...
"St Helens were near-perfect right from kick-off and put up a performance that just screamed 'Champions"
St Helens v Salford Red Devils
Saturday October 12, 18:00 BST
Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Arena
Simply the best
St Helens have carried all before them this year, topping the regular season table by a record 16 points and finishing 18 ahead of third-placed Salford. NRL-bound coach Justin Holbrook has reinvigorated the club in a way few would have predicted since his arrival two-and-a-half seasons back and has led Saints to a phenomenal 53 wins in their last 61 games in all competitions. All he is missing is one of the major trophies and he'll be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Shaun Wane last year with victory on the big stage in his final match in charge.
New kids on the block
The transformation and rise of Salford Red Devils in 2019 has been just as sensational as the dominance of St Helens. Priced at 100/1 for glory at the start of the campaign, the club who have staged the games with the lowest recorded attendances in the competition for the last four years are now just a win away from becoming only the fifth different side to win the Super League Grand Final.
Ian Watson's "misfits" - as several of the players have called themselves in the run-up to the game - have been a joy to watch at times and took apart the reigning Champions Wigan on their home soil last week with another committed performance. They've conceded just one try in their last 160 minutes of rugby and will head to Old Trafford, essentially a home game for them, for the first time full of confidence that they can cause what would be the biggest upset in the sport in modern times.
There are no new reported injuries for either team. St Helens, who are making a record 11th Grand Final appearance, have five players from the 2019 Dream Team in their line-up, including full-back Lachlan Coote, who is bidding to complete the Super League/NRL Grand Final double. The newly-crowned Man of Steel Jackson Hastings, who has been such a force for the Red Devils, is one of a number of players making their final appearances for Salford.
Historical positives for Salford backers
The Red Devils get a ten start on the handicap, shortened from a dozen points in the week, and have history on their side in their bid for glory. The underdogs have a great recent record at Old Trafford, with Wigan the first favourites in eight years to oblige twelve months ago. St Helens may have steamrollered their way to the Grand Final but the spectre of that Wembley Challenge Cup Final flop against Warrington in August looms large and only a win on Saturday will rid them of the 'big-game bottlers' tag that has been thrown at them many times.
All's well that ends well
St Helens will have that Wembley nightmare in the back of their minds but are taken to have learnt their lessons and they can give Justin Holbrook the perfect send-off if putting in a shift anywhere near as good as when destroying Wigan 40-10 a fortnight ago. They were near-perfect right from kick-off and put up a performance that just screamed 'Champions'. They've had the benefit of another week's rest and could put this game to bed early with another fast start.
Jonny B Good
Jonny Lomax has had a simply sensational season in the red vee and scored his seventeenth league try of 2019 against Wigan. He's fought off some stiff competition from his fantastic team-mates to be voted St Helens player of the year and looks a worthy 9/2-favourite to pick up the coveted Harry Sunderland Trophy for man of the match. He's been on the losing side twice at Old Trafford but looks poised to have a huge game. Back the fabulous number 1 to score again and take the plaudits as his side sweep to victory.