Wigan will be looking to win their seventh consecutive Good Friday fixture against St Helens when they travel to Langtree Park in one of the biggest games of Super League’s Easter weekend.
Last Time Out
Wigan suffered their first league defeat of the season against table toppers Widnes which saw their 21-month long impressive unbeaten home record come to an end. The Warriors had won their opening five games without setting the world alight and Denis Betts’ in-form Vikings condemned them to a narrow 18-12 defeat.
Liam Farrell sustained a shoulder injury in the loss and misses the derby against Saints. George Williams missed the game and has not recovered in time for the clash at Langtree Park so skipper Sean O’Loughlin will play at half-back as he did against Widnes.
It had been hoped at the start of the season that Sam Tomkins would return over the Easter period for the games against Saints and Hull KR but head coach Shaun Wane admitted this week the full-back is still six weeks away from his return.
St Helens were also beaten last weekend as reigning champions Leeds edged them 30-18 at Headingley. After trailing 16-0 in the opening 12 minutes Saints took an 18-16 lead before half-time and will be disappointed that they were unable to kick on from there and instead allowed the Rhinos back into the game.
Saints arguably have the toughest double-header of any side in the competition this weekend as they travel to Widnes on Monday although their main focus for now is beating their rivals for the first time on Good Friday since 2009.
With the odd exception, games against St Helens and Wigan are always close with both defences standing strong and difficult to breakdown. Both teams will need their half-backs to create moments of brilliance that ultimately end up being the difference between the sides. With O’Loughlin at half-back for the Warriors, there’s more pressure on Matty Smith to perform and the England international will be looking to silence his critics following a poor performance by his standards last week. The return of Theo Fages to the Saints squad could be huge although they will look to Luke Walsh to lead from the front.
Home support and an electric atmosphere inside Langtree Park could be a huge factor and I expect Saints to just edge it and end their poor Good Friday record against the Warriors. Saints by 4.
St Helens (from): Makinson, Turner, Burns, Walsh, Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tasi, Richards, Savelio, Thompson, Peyroux, Fages, Greenwood, Dawson, Owens, McDonnell.
Wigan (from): Bateman, Bretherton, Burke, Charnley, Clubb, Flower, Gelling, Gildart, Gregson, Manfredi, Mossop, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, Tomkins.