Wigan Warriors host St Helens in what is expected to draw the biggest crowd of the 2016 Super League season. The reverse fixture back on Good Friday, currently holds the 2016, Super League highest attendance at 17,890 which saw Wigan defeat their greatest rivals 24-14 in superb fashion. However, St Helens have a great record against Wigan in non-easter derby games that have been played at the DW, Knowsley Road or Langtree Park, not losing one in the League since 2007. Wigan will be looking to change the history books come Friday night.
LAST TIME OUT
Wigan come into this game on the back of a disappointing 18-16 loss to then bottom of the table, Leeds Rhinos. It was a poor performance from the Warriors, who let slip their position at the top of the league. It was a struggle of a first half, in which both teams held each other out well. However, both attacks didn’t have the best of games either. Leeds scored first through a persistent Kallum Watkins who forced his way over. Wigan responded well, when Josh Charnley pounced on the end of a George Williams grubber into the corner. Leeds led 6-4 at halftime, and both sides had a lot of improving to do in the second half. Leeds came out strong in the second half, and scored early on through Adam Cuthbertson. This was followed up by a Brett Ferres try which extended their lead to 18-4 with just 15 minutes to go. Wigan seemed to have left too much to do with so little time left. However, they gave Leeds a real scare when Jack Higginson went over for his first ever Wigan Warriors try. This was followed up by a superb solo effort from George Williams, to cut their deficit to just 2 points at 18-16 with 5 minutes to go. While Wigan pressed late on, they couldn’t find their way over for a winner. Leeds made it back to back wins over the top two teams in Super League and finally came off the bottom of the league.
St Helens come into this game on a good run of form, winning their last 4 games, the latest one being a 34-18 victory away at struggling Huddersfield Giants. Saints got off to a great start, scoring their first try after just 90 seconds in through Joe Greenwood. Huddersfield struck back quickly through Danny Brough. Saints went over again through winger Jack Owens after a superb passing move. The Giants responded yet again when Tom Symonds went over for the try to put Huddersfield ahead. The lead changed hands once again as McCarthy-Scarsbrook went over to put Saints ahead, which was then followed up by a Jordan Turner try to go in 22-12 up at halftime. Saints started the second half on the front foot, but couldn’t take their early chances. Giants didn’t give up and reduced their deficit to just 4 points when McGilvary went over and scored his 17th try of the season. These where to be Huddersfield’s last points of the game as Saint took control and would finish the match off strong. Back to back tries from Swift and Walmsley would seal a 34-18 victory for St Helens and keep their top 4 chances alive.
Wigan vs St Helens is not only the biggest derby in Rugby League, it is always the most anticipated by all fans. There is always added pressure and determination on the players. There is more to play for in this game than winning the 2 points for their clubs. Wigan have Charnley and Tautai out of this game, two players who have proven to be influential in the last couple months. However, Wigan welcome back Bateman, Sam Tomkins, O’Loughlin and Dom Crosby. Top players who are able to just step into the team and will be eager to make a difference. St Helens are unchanged from last week.
The battle between the halfbacks will be crucial in this game. Since returning from injury, George Williams has been Wigan’s best player, and his partnership with Smith has nearly reached the heights of what it did last season. Williams is such a dangerous player, who with his quick feet and movement can change a game in an instant. I’m sure St Helens will know this and look to keep him as quite as possible. As for Saints, their unusual halfback pairing of Turner and Walsh look set to pair up for the second week running. While they may not have much experience together, they are two players who have enough skill and understanding of the game to make a difference.
With the return of Bateman, O’Loughlin and Crosby to the Wigan side, it will only improve their forward line. Last week, they had quite a few forwards missing, and struggled with the battle down the middle. However, with the return of some big players, Wigan will be looking to win that battle down the middle and on the floor, something that they lost last week at Leeds. If Wigan get the ruck speed to were they want it, and control the Saints play the ball, it’ll go a long way in getting the much needed victory.
Wigan will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing loss away at Leeds last week. Even with St Helens on a good run of late, I don’t see anything but a Wigan win, in this fierce derby.
Wigan Warriors by 14
Wigan Warriors 19-man squad: Bateman, Crosby, Flower, Gildart, Higginson, Isa, Manfredi, Mossop, Nuuausala, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Shorrocks, Smith, Shelford, Sutton, Tierney, Tomkins, Williams.
St Helens 19-man squad: Lomax, Turner, Percival, Swift, Walsh, Walmsley, Roby, Amor, Vea, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tasi, Richards, Thompson, Greenwood, Owens, McDonnell, Fleming, Knowles.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Venue: DW Stadium
Date/Time: Friday 22nd July 2016 – 20:00pm GMT