Leigh Centurions host the Wigan Warriors this Thursday night in the first of six-remaining must-win games for the Warriors. Leigh have only one win in their previous 11 league games, while Wigan are without a win in their last six.
LAST TIME OUT
Leigh Centurions come into this game on the back of a 22-14 defeat away to Leeds Rhinos. Only two games prior, Leigh had got their first win in nine attempts and looked to be improving their fortune. However, after a 38-0 defat at home to Castleford the week later, it was back to the doom and gloom of defeat. However, the did play their part in a tight encounter with Leeds, and after only being 14-10 down at halftime, they just lacked a bit of cutting edge as Leeds ran away eventual winners. It was Leeds who got off to the best start through tries from Adam Cuthbertson and Tom Briscoe, which was soon cancelled out by Leigh’s Matty Dawson, as Leeds led 8-4. It was a horrid evening on the weather front, and the game suffered because of it. Just after the half-hour mark, Joel Moon crossed over to put Leeds further ahead at 14-4. Right on the halftime hooter, Dawson crashed over for his second of the game to get Leigh to just 14-10 behind going into the second half. Following a Liam Sutcliffe penalty-goal, Cuthbertson scored his second of the game to seemingly put the game to bed, as Leeds led 24-10 with just over 20 minutes to go. Leigh managed to go over towards the end of the game through Cory Paterson, but the game was already over at this stage, as Leeds finished up 24-14 winners.
Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a 39-26 defeat, away to Hull FC. Wigan have been struggling of late, having not won in their previous six league games, having only picked up one point against Warrington at the Magic Weekend. Hull got off to a flying start in this one, going 24-0 up before the 30th minute. They scored four tries through a brace from Steve Michaels, Mark Minichiello and Danny Houghton. Wigan looked rather tired, and way of the pace in the opening forty. They did manage to score through Tom Davies before halftime, that was followed up by a Jake Connors penalty-goal to give FC a 26-4 halftime lead. Wigan started to second half witch much more promise and desire, as they ran in for two tries through Liam Marshall and a superb team finished off from Lewis Tierney, to claw Wigan back to 26-14 behind, with still plenty time on the clock. However, it was not to be a special comeback for Wigan, as Hull finally put the game to bed with tries from Jamie Shaul and Albert Kelly to extend their lead to 38-14. Wigan put on a late fightback by scoring three tries in the final 10 minutes through Joe Burgess, Marshall and Davies. Albert Kelly kicked a drop-goal in between the three tries to add some gloss to the game, and Hull finished up 39-26 winners.
This is a very important game for both clubs. Leigh are falling further behind the top eight, while Wigan are doing the same with the top four. The players will be feeling the pressure, and I’m sure that’ll show within the game itself.
Matty Dawson vs Liam Marshall
While both are on opposite wings, they are both the best wingers on either side, and will be the ones that their sides will go too on those try-line attacks. Dawson has proved to be Leigh’s top scorer with nine tries in a difficult season. Meanwhile, Marshall is the second highest scorer in the league with 17 tries. It’s a rather remarkable statistic for a youngster thrown into the deep end through injuries. I will lay good odds on both players being on the scoresheet this Thursday.
Josh Drinkwater vs Thomas Leuluai
The battle of the scrum-halves will be an interesting one. While Drinkwater hasn’t got a try to his name this season, he is top of their try assists, with seven. His role in the team is vital, and while they haven’t been getting the results this season, he has been in the middle of their best efforts. Meanwhile, Leuluai has been hit and miss this season, popping up with two tries and four assists. However, it’s his kicking game that proves to be key to Wigan, between him and George Williams, they both pose a huge threat.
Greg McNally vs Lewis Tierney
Both players aren’t natural full-backs, with McNally being a scrum-half and Tierney a winger. However, both are getting playtime through injuries and trying their best to make it work. Either side may see each player as a potential weakness, and try to target them with high kicks. McNally has struggled so far, scoring only one, but getting two assists, while Tierney has proved to be hit and miss, with having been missing in defence, but good in attack, helping with five tries and one assist so far.
I’ve yet to back against Wigan this season, and I have been proved to be so wrong for the majority. However, I honestly do believe Wigan will win every week, I expect them too. Wigan now have six cup finals until the start of the Super 8s, and I honestly believe the Warriors can win the lot of them, starting with Leigh on Thursday night.
Wigan Warriors by 16
Leigh Centurions head coach Neil Jukes:
“We’ve had to cope with this schedule with a more depleted squad than probably anyone in Super League. We had seven injured and two banned before we started.
“It’s been four games in 12 days for us against the top four teams – Hull, Castleford, Salford and Leeds. Hopefully we don’t have to do it again.
“It’s obviously our first year in Super League and we’ve caught the brunt of that. But I’m still glad we’re in this competition, playing at these arenas and against the players we are.”
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“We didn’t start as if it was Faz’s 200th game. That hurt the players, they love Faz. We were too loose and gave too many penalties away.
“Losing Sean O’Loughlin was a massive disruption, Tommy and Sam too. That’s no excuse though. We just did too much defence. We couldn’t attack at times.
“It’s a big game against Leigh we’re looking forward to it. We just need to refresh ourselves and bounce back.”
Neil Jukes makes just one change from the squad that lost to Leeds last week with Glenn Stewart coming into the squad for Atelea Vea.
Shaun Wane makes three changes from the defeat to Hull FC last week with Oliver Gildart, Josh Ganson and Romain Navarette all coming into the squad for Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell and Liam Farrell.
Leigh Centurions: Jamie Acton, Mitch Brown, Lachlan Burr, Matty Dawson, Josh Drinkwater, Matty Fleming, Ryan Hampshire, Harrison Hansen, Liam Hood, Sam Hopkins, Greg McNally, Antoni Maria, Curtis Naughton, Cory Paterson, Eloi Pelissier, Ben Reynolds, Glenn Stewart, Danny Tickle and Dayne Weston.
Wigan Warriors: Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Gabe Fell, Callum Field, Liam Forsyth, Josh Ganson, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Michael Mcilorum, Romain Navarrete, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Joel Tomkins, Jack Wells and George Williams.
Referee: Robert Hicks
Venue: Leigh Sports Village
Date/Time: Thursday 8th June 2017 – 20:00pm GMT