This week, Newcastle plays host to the 2017 Magic Weekend. One of the most anticipated games of the weekend will be a repeat of last year’s Super League Grand Final, as Wigan Warriors take on the Warrington Wolves. It’s a huge game for both sides, and neither will want to leave Newcastle empty handed.  

LAST TIME OUT

Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a 42-12 win over Swinton Lions in the Challenge Cup. It turned into a routine cup win for Wigan, as they ran in eight tries to beat the Championship side. Tries came from Joel Tomkins, Liam Farrell, Liam Marshall, Tom Davies, Josh Ganson, Nick Gregson and a brace from Joe Burgess. Swinton put up a good fight, and the scoreline didn’t really show how much effort they put in. Wigan’s last league game was a 31-16 defeat at home to the Salford Red Devils. It was a strange game, in which Wigan would count themselves unlucky to not be closer on the scoreboard. Salford won the first half 16-0 with tries from Kris Welham, Niall Evalds and Ben Murdoch-Masila. Wigan were 28-0 down before they started to score some points, as they ran in for three tries through Davies, Ryan Sutton and Lewis Tierney. However, it was too little, too late and Salford would see out the game to get their first win at Wigan in 20-years.

Warrington Wolves come into this game on the back of a hard fought 34-20 win against Widnes Vikings in the Challenge Cup. Wire would win a tight first half 12-6, after tries from Ryan Atkins and Kevin Brown cancelled out the early Greg Burke try. Widnes kicked on, and the game was level at 20-20 after 65-minutes. Warrington would then go on to score three late tries through Matty Russel, Chris Hill and a hat-trick try from Kevin Brown, to seal a 34-20 win. Warrington’s last league game was a huge 40-18 win against St Helens. It was Saints who started off the better side, and took a 14-0 lead after 27-minutes. Then, it all started to fall apart for them, as Warrington would score 36-unanswered points with tries from Benjamin Jullien, Mike Cooper, Harvey Livett, Reece Evans, Tom Lineham and Ryan Atkins to blow Saints away. Ryan Atkins would cancel out a late Dominic Peyroux consolation try to wrap up a 40-18 win, in what was a superb second half display.

KEY BATTLES

The last time these two sides met, Liam Marshall scored four tries against the wounded Wolves, in just his second game. I’m sure Tony Smith would have been watching the young winger in recent weeks, and seen how he’s gone on to score a further seven tries in both league and cup. Marshall has made a name for himself by scoring against the big sides, and I’m sure he’ll be doing that again come Saturday.

Last weekend, Kevin Brown had one his best games in a Warrington shirt, scoring a hat-trick against his former side. He’s had a few different partners in the halves, and not quite settled yet. As for Wigan, they’ve had several combinations in the halves in recent weeks, but the return of George Williams is a huge boost for them. Brown and Williams will be key in both their sides efforts on Saturday, it’ll be a good watch.

The one place that Wigan has managed to keep rather secure, and experienced, is in the forward pack. Players such as Tautai, Sutton, Isa, Nuuausala, Farrell and J.Tomkins have all had to step up, and help the young lads out. As for Warrington, they were without Chris Hill for a good part of the season, and missed him dearly. As well as being without Ben Currie for the whole of 2017, they’ve struggled big time.

It’ll be a good game on Saturday, between two struggling sides. While Warrington have only lost once in their last eight games, they’ve been rather lucky in a fair few of those. Whereas Wigan have been unlucky to lose some of their games, and left rather frustrated, with the thoughts of what could have been with a fully fit squad. I’m looking forward to the trip to Newcastle this weekend, and I don’t think this game will let me down.

PREDICTIONS

I will always back Wigan in big games, and this is a huge one for both sides on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, the losers season won’t be over, but for the winner, it brings great confidence and momentum going forward. Warrington are getting the results of late, but without much conviction. Meanwhile Wigan are struggling, low on personnel, but still playing well, and giving it all they’ve got.

Wigan Warriors by 8

PRE-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors second-row Liam Farrell:

“This is the first time we’ve met Warrington in the Magic Weekend. We’ve had some terrific games against them in the past and this is shaping up as another.

“They are playing themselves down a little bit and suggesting they have not hit form yet, but I think they have turned the corner, the results suggest as much.

“We’ve done well in past Magic Weekend games. Waney does nothing differently, I think as players we like to think we rise to the occasion and this feels like there’s more than two points at stake.”

Warrington Wolves stand-off Kevin Brown:

“A few lads may still be smarting from the Grand Final but I wouldn’t say that’s the main reason we want to beat them.

“We want to beat them to improve our own position and carry on building like we have been doing. When we are in full flow, I firmly believe nobody can stop us.

“They are doing it tough. They have a few players missing but there is absolutely no chance of us underestimating them.”

SQUAD NEWS

Shaun Wane makes two changes to the squad that faced Swinton last week, with Sean O’Loughlin and Josh Woods coming in for Oliver Partington and Josh Ganson. George Williams was a late withdrawal last week, but looks set to return to the side this Saturday.

Tony Smith makes two changes to the squad that faced Widnes last weekend, with Daryl Clark, Andre Savelio and Joe Westerman coming in for the Morgan Smith, Harvey Livett and the suspended Ashton Sims.

SQUADS

Wigan Warriors: Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Liam Farrell, Callum Field, Liam Forsyth, Nick Gregson, Willie Isa, Liam Marshall, Michael McIlorum, Romain Navarrete, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Joel Tomkins, Jack Wells, George Williams and Josh Woods.

Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Kevin Brown, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Dom Crosby, Brad Dwyer, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Benjamin Jullien, George King, Tom Lineham, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Matty Russell, Andre Savelio, Joe Westerman and Ben Westwood.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Ben Thaler

Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle

Date/Time: Saturday 20th May 2017 – 19:00pm GMT