Wigan Warriors travel down to the John Smith’s Stadium this Friday night to face an in-form Huddersfield Giants. Wigan will be wanting to stop the rot in the league, while the Giants are looking to make it four wins in a row. Huddersfield haven’t beaten Wigan in their last eight attempts, although their first encounter in 2017 was a battling 16-16 draw.
LAST TIME OUT
Huddersfield Giants come into this game on the back of a 24-16 win against St Helens. Giants came into the game on the back of two very good wins against Warrington and a superb win against Catalan in the South of France. They’re flying, and looking to push themselves up the league table, and away from the bottom four. Huddersfield got off to a great start when in the 13th minute, Leroy Cudjoe walked in for the opening try after a superb cut-out pass from Martin Ridyard to put them 6-0 up. The game went quite for a good period of the first half, as both sides enjoyed moments with the ball, but couldn’t quite capitalise on their possession and the game stayed at 6-0. Then, in the 36th minute, Ridyard was on the end of a clever Danny Brough grubber, and scored under the sticks, to make it 12-0. Right on halftime, Morgan Knowles broke through the Giants defence and found Luke Thompson on his inside, who went under the posts for an important try. Saints where now just a converted try behind at 12-6 and needed a good start to the second half, they got just that. The ball went through the hands on the left-edge and Mark Percival was on hand to finish off a superb team try in the corner. Percival missed the conversion and Saints still trailed 12-10. Adam O’Brien extended the Giants lead just before Kyle Amor clawed Saints back once again. Huddersfield led 18-16 with just 10 minutes remaining, it was still anyone’s to win. Then, in the 76th minute, the Giants finally finished off St Helens, as Lee Gaskell barged his way under the posts, to seal a superb 24-16 win. Huddersfield would leapfrog Wigan in the table, and move themselves up into seventh in Super League.
Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a nail-biting 27-26 win against the Warrington Wolves in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals. Wigan got off to a great start, and went 12-0 up after 21 minutes following two tries from Joe Burgess. However, Warrington hit back with two tries of their own, both coming from Ryan Atkins, and the scores were 12-12 just minutes before halftime. Wigan had been in control for most the first half, and deservedly took the lead into halftime when Liam Marshall got his eighth try in just three games against Warrington in 2017, and Wigan led 18-12. Wigan took an eight-point lead following a George Williams penalty, but Wire hit straight back. Andre Savelio would barge his way over for the important next try, then Declan Patton kicked a penalty of his own to level the scores at 20-20 with just 15 minutes remaining. Almost immediately, on his return to the side, John Bateman cut inside to score a superb solo try and put Wigan 26-20 up. Then, Sam Tomkins would kick a drop-goal to seemingly win the game for Wigan and give them a seven-point lead with just four minutes left in the game. There was plenty of drama to come. Kurt Gidley went over with just two minutes left to give Warrington some hope. Then, from the kick-off, Burgess kicked the ball out on the full and Warrington had a shot at goal, and a chance to snatch a late dramatic winner with just a minute remaining. Stefan Ratchford missed, but Warrington still had one more set against the Wigan line, to either win it, or take us into golden point extra time with a drop-goal. On the hooter, the ball fell to Patton who was just 10 yards out, smack bang in front of the sticks, and he put his drop-goal attempt wide, and Wigan finished up 27-26 winners in what was a cup classic.
I was rather looking forward to watching Jake Mamo in the flesh this week, however it seems the Australian is set to be on the sidelines for a good few weeks, which is a huge loss for Huddersfield, but a boost for Wigan.
Brough/Ridyard vs Williams/Leuluai
This should be interesting! Since Martin Ridyard has come into the Giants side, he’s been phenomenal, and proven to be a great addition to the squad. He’s sort of taken the pressure away from Danny Brough, and some attention, as defences now don’t know who’s going to run each play. As for Wigan, their halfback pairing has been rather quite in recent weeks, however with the return of Sam Tomkins to full-back, it gives them some much needed quality to come in behind them.
Both sides have a big setup, and both have huge players in the forward pack who can change the game and help their backs out. There’ll be some huge hits out there with the likes of Dale Ferguson, Kruise Leeming and Sebastine Ikahihifo coming up against Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Ryan Sutton and John Bateman, who returned last week and got man of the match and a try. He’s a huge player for Wigan and will prove to be pivotal in their hopeful change of fortunes this campaign.
Huddersfield have had great joy from out wide in their last three wins, with nine tries coming from out there. They are without Jordan Turner again this week, who has proven to be a great addition. However, they do have Lee Gaskell. As for Wigan, they were finally getting close to a fully fit three-quarter again, but Anthony Gelling is ruled out this week. But having Oliver Gildart back is huge and has proven so in recent weeks. Joe Burgess and Liam Marshall will be key on Friday night too.
This is make or break time for Wigan Warriors and their quest to retain their Super League crown. They have five crucial games coming up in the league, before the split, and they simply must win them all. Huddersfield are down on numbers, a couple of them being players who have had a huge influence in their glory this season.
Wigan Warriors by 16
Huddersfield Giants head coach Rick Stone:
“It’s a good feeling, the last three games have been really important for us in the context of the competition.
“It was about having that desire and effort to get across the line where we’ve been a bit soft over the last 12 months.
“It’s important to have four of our last six games at home and we need to make sure it’s hard for people to beat us here.”
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“Sam Tomkins was a big help for us. Having players like Sean O’Loughlin and John Bateman in the team makes a huge difference too.
“We made too many errors and too early in the sets too so we’ll work on that. We’ve got five very important games coming up and then a semi-final, so we need to be at our best.
“Huddersfield are playing really well, they put some really good shapes on against St Helens. They seem to be playing with a lot of belief and confidence.”
Rick Stone makes three changes from the side that beat St Helens last week, with Jake Mamo, Adam O’Brien and the suspended Sam Rapira being replaced by Tyler Dickinson, Sam Wood and Darnell McIntosh.
Shaun Wane makes two changes from the team that beat Warrington in the Challenge Cup, with Anthony Gelling and Taulima Tautai being replaced in the squad by Lewis Tierney and Callum Fields.
Huddersfield Giants: Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Lee Gaskell, Aaron Murphy, Danny Brough, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Shannon Wakeman, Dale Ferguson, Kruise Leeming, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Oliver Roberts, Ukuma Ta’ai, Paul Clough, Nathan Mason, Tyler Dickinson, Sam Wood, Darnell McIntosh, Alex Mellor and Martyn Ridyard.
Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Liam Farrell, Callum Field, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Michael Mcilorum, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Lewis Tierney, Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins, Jack Wells and George Williams.
Referee: Gareth Hewer
Venue: John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield
Date/Time: Friday 23rd June 2017 – 20:00pm GMT