SAINTS boss Paul Wellens referred to the opening exchanges of Friday's Betfred Super League encounter against the Leeds Rhinos as being hit by a cyclone!

There was no doubts it was the best 40 minutes the Rhinos have produced this season, if not numerous seasons.

They led the visitors 8-0 up until the 34th minute, before new signing Waqa Blake opened his Saints account with a score in the corner.

Saints went on to win the second half 12- nil after tries from Jon Bennison and Moses Mbye, with all tries converted by Jonny Lomax.

Wello commented after the game, that is was game of the season so far in the Betfred Super League and I can’t disagree.

This adds even more spice as the two teams meet again this Friday, again at Headingley in the Betfred Challenge Cup.

He also said that his side will be better from the start this week!

However, there was some genuine mitigating circumstances for a slow start after a late team shuffle following the late withdrawal of Tommy Makinson during warm up with a tight hamstring.

This had an impact on a number of positions, one which saw Joe Batchelor gain his first start of the season.

Despite the slow start, there will be a lot of positives taken from the game.

The resilience shown and effort to scramble for each other when things not quite going to plan.

The ability to fight their way back into the game before half time…and the quality shown on both attack and defence to dominate the second 40 minutes.

But all that is gone now, and Leeds will be hurting and out to turn the tables this week.

This is of course the tie of the round, and the magic of the Betfred Challenge Cup means you only get the one shot or you're out.

As I said last week, the Rhinos have some influential match winners themselves. Brodie Croft, and the in form Ash Handley being two to watch.

Handley has been in great form for the Rhinos in 2024, not only scoring some spectacular tries but also some outstanding backfield carries that get his team on the front foot.

However, I see Saints as a far more complete side, with certainly a stronger pack. Saints have also, Salford game exempt been the far more consistent performer this year in the Betfred Super League.

Therefore, I am again going for an away win by more than ten points (2/1 at Betfred) - and that will mean Saints will be in the bag for the next round draw.

Saints remain 5/2 second favourites to lift the Betfred Super League Grand Final trophy but behind arch rivals Wigan at 13/10 who they will face next week in biggest game of the regular season …the Good Friday derby!