Wigan host Leigh Centurions in what will be the battle of the borough this Friday at the DW Stadium. Both teams come into this game on the back of wins and will be looking to continue their good form when to two face off in their first competitive match since 2013, and their first super league meeting since 2005.
LAST TIME OUT
Wigan come into this game on the back of a superb 28-26 comeback win, away at Widnes Vikings. Wigan would score four tries in the last 20 minutes to overturn a 26-12 deficit and get the vital two points. It wasn’t a great performance from the Warriors, who struggled to get anything going, just five days after their brutal WCC victory. You could see that the players where still feeling the consequences of that famous win. Wigan would score first through Thomas Leuluai as Wigan tried to blow off the cobwebs. However, Widnes hit Wigan with back-to-back tries through Lloyd White and Danny Craven to put the Vikings 12-6 up. Oliver Gildart finished of a superb try for Wigan to level to scores. Widnes would then go on to score two tries through Tom Armstrong and Stefan Marsh, which was followed up by two penalty goals to give Widnes a 26-12 lead with just 20 minutes to go. The game seemed dead and buried as Wigan looked lost for ideas and didn’t seem to have a comeback in them. However, they would run in for four tries through Oliver Gildart, Lewis Tierney and two from Joe Burgess to seal a dramatic 28-26 comeback win for Shaun Wane’s men.
Leigh come into this game on the back of their first win after their return to super league, beating St Helens 24-16 down at Leigh Sports Village. The Centurions were looking for their first win, and came close the week before against Leeds. However, they couldn’t quite get over the line, but the performance would have been encouraging. They certainly got off to a great start against Saints, and they knocked the juice out of the early on with a superb first half, as Neil Jukes saw his side go in for three tries through former Saints player Atelea Vea, Gareth Hock and Jamie Acton which put Leigh 18-0, before Adam Swift would go over in the corner to give Saints a lifeline going into the second half. Saints got off to a better start in the second half when James Roby would scoot over from dummy half to reduce the deficit to 18-10. However, Mick Higham would stroll through the Saints defence to put Leigh 14 points clear with just 10 minutes to go. Adam Walmsley would score towards the end to give Kieron Cunningham some hope. However, it was too little too late as Leigh held on for a famous 24-16 win to finally kick-start their season.
I think the forward pack will win it for Wigan, it will be key to the game. Leigh have a good set of forwards, but I don’t think they can battle with the Wigan lot for a full 80 minutes. With the likes of Tautai, Frank-Paul, Sutton and more, they’re all big lads who can go full throttle for the full game. However, on the other side, there the likes of Hock, Atelea Vea and Hansen are all great players, but will all struggle to keep up their game for a full 80.
Morgan Escaré had another good game for Wigan last week, and created a superb try in the win down at Widnes. He’s already become a fan favourite just three games into the season, and fans are excepting a lot from him. He seems to have settled into the team very easily, and already working well with Williams and Leuluai.
Mick Higham returned for Leigh last week, and had a great game. He scored a great try from dummy-half to seal the win for Leigh. He will be key for Leigh on Friday, and they’ll be looking to score points through his play. Wigan will know only too well how dangerous he can be, and I’m sure they’ll be looking to keep him quiet from the get go.
When the fixtures where announced, this would’ve been one of the first that both sets of fans looked for. It’s going to be a real battle on Friday, and Leigh won’t be there to just make up the numbers. However, if Wigan play to their best, they should ease past Leigh with the gulf in quality they have.
Wigan by 20
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“After winning the WCC it was a tough week for us, but we managed to get the win. I’m happy, we’ve not played unbelievably well, but we’ve won all three games so far.”
“Leigh were the best team against Leeds, they were good for the win against Saints and they’ll trouble us this week.”
“They were very strong against St Helens and took a lot of juice out of them early-on. They’ve a lot of experience and size, they’re all very competitive players. I have a lot of respect for them.”
Leigh Centurions head coach Neil Jukes:
“It’s a new atmosphere that’s not been created for a number of years and it’s teed up to what’s hopefully going to be a good game.”
“Any win lifts the mood in the camp and gives you a little bit more confidence for the following week. We can’t get carried away because we’re coming up against the world champions this week.”
“We’ve got to take confidence from our performance however we look at it and however we measure that the following day.”
Wigan make two changes to the 19-man squad that was set to face Widnes, with Oliver Gildart and John Bateman making way for Joe Bretherton and Liam Forsyth. Jake Shorrocks, also misses out, however his knee injury is not as bad as first thought with the young half-back expected to be out for 3-4 weeks.
Leigh Make two changes from the 19-man squad that was set to face St Helens last week. Both Dayne Weston and Ben Crooks come into the squad in place of Adam Higson and Corey Paterson. These being the only changes made by Neil Jukes.
Wigan Warriors: Joe Burgess, Joe Bretherton, Tony Clubb, Morgan Escaré, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Liam Forsyth, Anthony Gelling, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Joel Tomkins and George Williams.
Leigh Centurions: Mitch Brown, Ben Crooks, Willie Tonga, Matty Dawson, Josh Drinkwater, Gareth Hock, Micky Higham, Dayne Weston, Harrison Hansen, Eloi Pelissier, Danny Tickle, Atelea Vea, Ryan Hampshire, Ben Reynolds, James Green, Sam Hopkins, Jamie Acton, Lachlan Burr and Curtis Naughton.
Referee: Robert Hicks
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: Friday 3rd March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT