Wigan Warriors host St Helens on Good Friday in what is the biggest derby in Super League. Both sides are in poor form, and both desperate for the win. Wigan are without a win in four, while Saints have not won in their last two.
LAST TIME OUT
Wigan go into this game on the back of a 27-10 defeat to the hands of high-flying Castleford Tigers. It was the fourth straight game that Wigan were unable to get a win, and they’ve dropped down from second to sixth in the Super League table. Wigan defended well in the first half, right up until the 24th minute, when Jake Webster stormed over for the first try of the game. Straight from the resulting kick-off, Tigers were in again. Hardaker made a break through some weak Wigan attempts, and fed Luke Gale the ball and the halfback went under the sticks. Gale would kick a penalty soon after, and suddenly, Castleford led 14-0, after a great seven-minute spell. Then right before halftime, Morgan Escaré scored a superb try to get Wigan back in the game. Castleford led 14-4 at halftime. Wigan needed to start the second half well, and they the complete opposite as just minutes into the half, Sene-Lefao walked through the Wigan defence and went right under the sticks. The game went stale for a good while in the second half, as Castleford played a real tactical game against Wigan, knowing they were in complete control. It was only in the 72nd minute when Wigan got another try back as Morgan Escaré went over for his second of the game. Then, with just minutes to go, Greg Eden would intercept a definite Wigan try, and go the full length to score. Luke Gale would complete the win with a last-minute drop-goal in front of the travelling Tigers fans, to send them home happy with a 27-10 win.
Saints go into this game on the back of a disappointing 14-14 draw at home with Huddersfield Giants. This was a must-win game for Cunningham, and the Saints players, as they needed to be going into Good Friday with a bit of confidence. Following the game, Cunningham was sacked and now they go into the game without a win in two and with no head coach. Following a nervy start to the game by both, Saints finally got the first points of the game in the 25th minute, when Theo Fages was on the end of a Mark Percival break down the left-edge. Minutes later and Theo Fages was in again for his second of the game. This time, the French international weaved in and out to beat the final Giants defender and made it 10-0. Saints were in again, this time it was Adam Swift who scored on his 100th appearance, and Saints led 14-0 at halftime. The second started the way the first did, with both sides struggling to get anything going. It was in the 61st minute when Huddersfield finally got on the board, following a Darnell McIntosh try. Giants started to press the Saints line, and in the 71st minute McIntosh was in again, and it was game well and truly back on as the Giants trailed 14-10 with minutes to go. The miracle comeback was completed in the 77th minute as young Sam wood crossed over to level the game up at 14-14. Brough missed the chance to put them ahead with the conversion. In the final moments, Saints wasted a chance to win the game with a late drop-goal, as the game finished 14-14.
There is a fierce rivalry between Wigan and Saints, and it won’t shy away on the field, as well as between the two sets of fans.
Saints go into the game without their main hooker, as James Roby is sidelined through injury. Whereas Wigan welcome back Michael McIlorum after 14 months out. I’d be surprised to see the England international start the game, but he certainly will play a part. What a game to make your comeback in, against your fiercest rivals. I imagine that Tommy Le will continue his role at hooker, so it’ll be an interesting battle, one in which McIlorum will be looking forward to.
This game looks to see the return of Joe burgess and Anthony Gelling. Now while the young lads who have come in for Wigan have done a great job, it’ll be a much-needed boost to have the two players back, as they provide some experience and extra power on the wing. As for Saints, Adam Swift has scored four tries in his last three games, while Tommy Makinson hasn’t scored at all this season, so he’ll be looking to get his own season going this Friday.
Former Warrior Matty Smith looks set to come up against his ex-teammates this Friday, and I’m sure he can’t wait. Saints have a good-looking halfback pairing in Smith and Fages, whereas Wigan have the pairing of Williams and Leuluai. Both pairings have class, skill and danger about them, albeit not in the past few weeks. Both will be looking to change their form, and help their side to the two-points in this game.
This should be a good game. Both are desperate for a win, and neither will want to lose this, for more than one reason. Wigan are at home, and have a great record in Good Friday games in recent years.
Saints go into this game without a coach, as Keiron Cunningham was sacked earlier this week. Something like this could work either way for both sides, as it could give Saints a boost, who are now playing for their future coach’s approval, or Wigan could take advantage of a bad situation.
Wigan Warriors by 10
Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane:
“In my eyes, it’s the biggest game in Super League, form goes out of the window and there’s two teams committed to getting the win.”
“I’ve a lot of respect for them but on gameday that rivalry is so fierce. I’m from Wigan, I’ve played for Wigan and I know that this means everything to the fans.”
“It’s close to a sell-out and will be an incredible atmosphere. We were expected to win in recent weeks and haven’t done, I’m not panicking it’s a good learning curve.”
Wigan Warriors winger Joe Burgess:
“When I was injured I was told I’d be out for five or six weeks, so I was desperate to get back for this one.”
“It’s just the build-up. It’s like a final, because the majority of the players are from Wigan, they have grown up with this game, and passed it on to the blokes who aren’t from Wigan.”
I’m sure players like Morgan (Escaré) will know what to expect but, if not, he’ll definitely know when he walks out at 12pm on Friday. I can’t wait for this one.”
St Helens interim coach Jamahl Lolesi:
“We’re here to get a gameplan right to play Wigan and that is our only focus at the moment. There isn’t enough time for sweeping changes, but we can make small ones.”
“Playing Wigan is ideal for us, it is a big game. We had a session yesterday afternoon, they trained great and again today.”
“We are well prepared for Friday’s game, and that’s all we can do at the moment. We’ve got a really good group, who are hardworking.”
Michael McIlorum is named in the squad for the first time since February last year after 14 months out with an ankle injury. He is joined by the returns of Joe Burgess and Sean O’Loughlin. Tony Clubb is sidelined with a lower back problem with Romain Navarrete and Nick Gregson dropping out of the squad.
Luke Thompson and Regan Grace have been named in the squad, as they replace Matty Fleming and Dominique Peyroux.
Wigan Warriors: Joe Bretherton, Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Morgan Escaré, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Liam Forsyth, Anthony Gelling, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Michael McIlorum, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins and George Williams.
St Helens: Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Theo Fages, Matty Smith, Alex Walmsley, Kyle Amor, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Adam Walker, Luke Thompson, Tommy Lee, Greg Richards, Morgan Knowles, Regan Grace and Zeb Taia.
Referee: Ben Thaler
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: Friday 14th April 2017 – 12:15pm GMT