Warrington Wolves host the Wigan Warriors in Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final. It’s a huge game for both sides, who are having disappointing seasons. They were both Grand Finalists in 2016, and less than 12-months later, no one would have predicted that the same game would be between two sides in such horrendous form.
LAST TIME OUT
Warrington Wolves come into this game on the back of a 36-16 defeat away to the Castleford Tigers. They got off to a horror start as the Tigers went 20-0 up after just 15 minutes with a brace from Greg Eden and two more from Greg Minikin and Mike McMeeken. Eden would complete his hat-trick just before halftime after a Tom Lineham try to give Castleford a 26-6 lead. They would both share the second half 10-10, with both scoring two tries a piece. It wasn’t enough for Tony Smith’s side who lost their fourth consecutive game, and are now five without a win. Warrington last Challenge Cup game was a battling 34-20 win against their rivals, Widnes Vikings. It was a real struggle of a game for both sides who were both in poor form. Warrington led 12-6 at halftime, in a tight contest. It was only in the final 10 minutes where they ran away with the game scoring three tries to seal a 34-20 win, and a meeting with Wigan in the quarter-finals.
Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a humiliating 50-34 defeat, away to the Leigh Centurions. It’s now four straight defeats for the Warriors who were just 20-14 down at halftime. However, it got worse in the second half as Leigh ran in another five tries to completely blow Wigan away, and lead 50-24 at one stage. Wigan’s defence was way off, and at sometimes, shambolic. They were conceding tries that amateur teams would be disappointed in. Wigan scored two late tries to add a little bit of pride to the scoreline, as the game finished 50-34. Wigan’s last Challenge Cup game came against the Swinton Lions back in May. It was a 42-12 win, one which was their last win in all competitions. Since this game, Wigan have lost four and drawn one, in what’s been a shocking last month. Wigan led throughout, and never looked in danger as they ran in eight tries in total to comfortably see off the Championship side.
Wigan fans will be ecstatic with the return of six key players to the squad. However, they can’t expect them to be at 100% from the get go, as some of them have been out for a very long time, especially Sam Tomkins and John Bateman. But to just see their names in the squad is enough to add fear into the opposition.
Brown/Gidley vs Williams/Leuluai
The Warrington pair haven’t played together since the 40-0 hammering away to Leeds. Since then, Warrington have lost three on the spin. It’s been a tough old season for them, however, both halves post a real threat at any stage, and can turn on the magic. As for Wigan, their pairing has been doing well, while Wigan themselves are losing games, they’re still scoring plenty points each week, and that’s through the halves. The one part of their game that’s been poor this season, is finishing off sets, especially Leuluai’s kicking game.
Westerman vs O’Loughlin
Westerman played in the halves last week at Castleford, however, it seems that he’ll be back in his normal position this week as Warrington face Wigan. Westerman has been one of the better players for Warrington in this challenging campaign. O’Loughlin makes a return having been out for the last couple of weeks, and Wigan will only benefit from that. When their captain is on the field, they play so much better and finally have a leader to guide them through the game.
Warrington are low on numbers in the three-quarters, with the likes of Kevin Penny, Rhys Evans and Matty Russell all out. They do still have Tom Lineham out there, who has been scoring in recent weeks, despite their troubles. As for Wigan, they welcome back Anthony Gelling in the centres, which means Joe Burgess will be back out on the wings, which immediately strengthens them. Then there’s Liam Marshall, who’s Wigan top scorer this season with 18 tries, with seven of those coming against Saturdays opponents.
It’s a huge game for both sides, who are having horrific campaigns. Both coaches are under immense pressure, and the players need to deliver. With both looking rather unlikely to make the play-offs this season, the Challenge Cup could be the only bit if silverware they have left to play for. The way both defences have been, there could be a fair few points scored in this one, and I see Wigan just edging it.
Wigan Warriors by 10
Warrington Wolves head coach Tony Smith:
“We can’t afford to give the advantage to a good team like Cas. Sin-bins were costly. But the fight to not capitulate further was encouraging.
“Players are working well, digging in for each other. We need to play ourselves into some form. Nature of the Cup is it’s a one off, it’s what you do on the day.
“Two grand finalists from last year this weekend, who bring out the best in each other. Both played well at magic weekend, and both have done it a bit tough.”
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“Training has gone through the roof this week having so many player back. There no headaches this week.
“The players were getting back are very good players and they have a lot of credits with me. It all adds to making it an important game for both teams.
“Tony Smith won’t be happy with their form like I’m not happy with ours. It’s two teams desperate to win. The affinity we have with Wembley is massive.
Tony Smith makes three changes to the side that lost in Castleford, with Ryan Atkins, Kurt Gidley and Sam Wilde coming into the squad in place of Chris Hill, Matty Blythe and Kevin Penny.
Shaun Wane makes six changes from the side that lost to Leigh, with Sam Powell, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin, Anthony Gelling, John Bateman and Sam Tomkins coming in for Callum Field, Liam Forsyth, Romain Navarrete, Josh Ganson, Lewis Tierney and Gabe Fell.
Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Kevin Brown, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Will Dagger, Brad Dwyer, Kurt Gidley, Jack Hughes, Benjamin Jullien, George King, Tom Lineham, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Andre Savelio, Ashton Sims, Morgan Smith, Joe Westerman and Sam Wilde.
Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Liam Farrell, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Michael Mcilorum, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins, Jack Wells and George Williams.
Referee: Ben Thaler
Venue: The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
Date/Time: Saturday 17th June 2017 – 15:00pm GMT