St Helens host the Wigan Warriors in what is set to be a cracking derby game down at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Wigan have won the previous two meetings between the pair, the latest being a 29-18 win at the DW Stadium back in April. There’ll be an electric atmosphere this Thursday night, and the players will be right up for it.
LAST TIME OUT
St Helens come into this game on the back of an unbelievable 45-0 win over Hull FC at last week’s Magic Weekend in Newcastle. It came out of nowhere as they’d lost their previous two games against Warrington and Castleford. It was the first game in front of their new head coach Justin Holbrook, and they didn’t disappoint. The game got off to a bit of a slow start, as neither side looked to threaten. Then, Saints would go on to score three tries in the space of seven-minutes through Alex Walmsley, Ryan Morgan and Morgan Knowles to race into an 18-0 lead. Hull were so poor, and never looked interested in the game throughout. Matty Smith would kick a drop-goal in the final moments of the first half to send Saints 19-0 up at halftime. It was a great opening 40 from Saints, as Hull were never in the game at any stage of the afternoon. Saints continued their form in the second as Walmsley went over to score his second of the game, which was quickly followed up by a McCarthy-Scarsbrook try, which gave them a 36-0 lead after 54-minutes. Then, came the try of the day, and possible the season, as Tommy Makinson went the full-length beating multiple defenders, jinxing in and out to extend their lead. The impressive Regan Grace would score two tries in the last 10-minutes to wrap-up a superb afternoon for St Helens, as they recorded a 45-0 hammering to Hull FC. It was a much-needed win for Saints who were slipping down the table, as their season was starting to fall apart.
Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a nail-biting 24-24 draw with Warrington Wolves in Newcastle at the Magic Weekend. Wigan had lost their last two league games against Castleford and Salford, and were in desperate need for a response. They made a good start as Liam Marshall put them 6-0 after just 10-minutes. Warrington hit back almost immediately through Daryl Clark, who levelled the game up. Marshall would then go 90-metres from an interception to get his second of the game and more importantly, restore Wigan’s lead. Lewis Tierney was sin-binned just before halftime, as Wigan limped into halftime 12-6 up. Wigan would go 18-6 up in the 46th minute as Marshall completed his hat-trick, and made it seven tries in just two games against Warrington. Wire then started their comeback, as they scored twice in the space of seven minutes with tries from Stefan Ratchford and Tom Lineham to reduce the deficit to 18-16. George Williams would kick a penalty-goal just after Ratchford did the same for Wire to put Wigan 20-18 ahead. In the 75th minute, Jack Hughes would storm through the Wigan defence and score what seemed to be the winning try. However, in the last seconds of the game, Sean O’Loughlin sent a ball high, and Joe Burgess leapt like a salmon and levelled the scores at 24-24. Williams missed the chance to win the game with the conversion as the hooter went, and the game finished 24-24 as both sides walked away disappointed.
It’s that time of season again… time for the biggest derby in rugby league. It’s the one day on the calendar that fans of both first look for and make a note of straight away.
Last week, the half-back pairing of Matty Smith and Theo Fages where influential in their win, and both had great games in which they controlled from start to finish. Wigan finally get their starting partnership back this week, with the return of Thomas Leuluai. It’ll be a welcomed return for Wigan, who have been struggling in recent weeks.
The forward pack of Saints where brilliant last week. Alex Walmsley, McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Morgan Knowles all got on the scoreboard, and proved pivotal in the win. Meanwhile Wigan have been relying on their forward pack as its been their most experienced area on the field. They’ll need to step-up again this week if Wigan are to win this derby.
Lastly, the battle between both full-backs will be interesting. Both are not natural in the position and have been filing in because of injuries. Last week Tommy Makinson had a blinder, and scored one of the tries of the season. On the other side, Lewis Tierney had a decent game and looks to have finally found a bit of form since returning from his injury.
This will be a good game, it always is when these two meet. Saints had a superb win last weekend in Newcastle, and Wigan came away happy with their last-gasp equaliser.
Both are in desperate need for the win, and despite their freak result against Hull last week, I can’t see them being that good this Thursday. Wigan have another couple of key players back, and are starting to get better by the game.
Wigan Warriors by 4
St Helens head coach Justin Holbrook:
“It is huge for both Saints and Wigan and I’m sure it will be a good game. They have got a good football team and Shaun (Wane) must be a good coach to have them firing the way they have.
“It’s well documented how many players they have out and that is probably why they are sitting where they are
“If we play well; play like we did on Saturday then we will be in a good position. That is the challenge and we have to make sure we keep aiming up. Then we can string some wins together.”
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“I want to win every game we play and especially this week, obviously. But I have some good mates at St Helens and having a strong Saints makes the competition better.
“I don’t want to see them struggle, and I don’t think (Saints CEO) Mike Rush would want us to either. We want derbies when both teams are firing, and this should be a really tough game.
“They have very few injuries and their confidence will be high after the weekend. They were far better than Hull on the day, our backs are to the wall and that’s when we’re at our best.”
St Helens have named an unchanged 19-man squad for Thursday’s derby with Wigan Warriors. Justin Holbrook has opted to select the same side that beat Hull FC 45-0 last Saturday.
Shaun Wane makes two changes from last week’s draw with Warrington, as Thomas Leuluai and Sam Powell come into the squad for Josh Woods and Romain Navarette.
St Helens: Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Theo Fages, Matty Smith, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Luke Thompson, Tommy Lee, Dominique Peyroux, Greg Richards, Morgan Knowles, Regan Grace and Zeb Taia.
Wigan Warriors: Joe Burgess, George Williams, Thomas Leuluai, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Michael Mcilorum, Joel Tomkins, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Taulima Tautai, Ryan Sutton, Willie Isa, Lewis Tierney, Nick Gregson, Jack Wells, Liam Forsyth, Liam Marshall, Tom Davies and Callum Field.
Referee: Phil Bentham
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens
Date/Time: Thursday 25th May 2017 – 20:00pm GMT