Wigan Warriors host the Widnes Vikings this Sunday at the DW Stadium, in what is a huge game for both sides. Wigan’s hopes of retaining their Super League trophy are slipping away, while Widnes are looking to build some confidence heading into The Qualifiers.

LAST TIME OUT

Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a damaging 19-19 draw away at the Huddersfield Giants. It was their second draw of the season, with the other being a 16-16 game down at the DW back in March, which was the start of a dreadful run of form for Wigan. It was a horror start for the Warriors, as they found themselves 13-0 down in the opening 20 minutes following tries from Leroy Cudjoe and Lee Gaskell. Those tries were split by a Danny Brough drop-goal to give the Giants a great lead early on. Wigan needed to score the next try, and they did just that through John Bateman right of the 30-minute mark. Only minutes later, Wigan were in again through Liam Marshall, and suddenly, it was 13-12 at halftime. Wigan had done well to claw themselves back into the game, especially before halftime. Their heads were up at the start of the second half, and just two minutes in, Marshall was over for his second, and Wigan took the lead for the first time in the game, as they led 18-13. As Wigan took the lead, you expected them to kick on and get another, however, the ball was with the Giants for a good 15 minutes as they peppered the Wigan line, to no avail. Then, in the 64th minute, they finally broke through, as Jermain McGillvary touched down for the try, and Huddersfield took a 19-18 lead, with 15 minutes to go. Just before the 70th minute, George Williams kicked a superb drop-goal from 40-metres out to level the game up. Both sides had chances to win the game in the last 10 minutes, but it ultimately finished up a draw, and it should be said, it was a fair result for both sides.

Widnes Vikings come into this game on the back of a superb 36-10 win against the Leigh Centurions. Following this win, Widnes made it three wins in their last four, having lost their previous five. They’ve beaten Leeds and Catalan along the way, and looked to have turned a corner, as they have started to put some great performances together. They put in a flawless first half, as they won it 20-0 having scored four tries. They completely wiped the floor with Leigh, and looked in great form on the night. Leigh struggled to even get into the game throughout the opening 40 minutes, as Widnes were just as good in defence as they had been in attack. The four first half tries came from Chris Bridge, Corey Thompson and an unlikely double from the eventual man of the match, Chris Houston. The game seemed won at halftime, as Widnes were in full control and didn’t look like leaking in as many points as they’d scored in the first half. However, the game got a little nervy for the Vikings as Leigh came out fighting and scored two tries in the opening 17 minutes through Nick Rawsthorne and Atelea Vea, which made the scores just 20-10 with still over 20 minutes to go. Leigh heads were up at this point, and the sudden change in fortune had given Widnes something to think about and play for in the second half, and they found their form once again as they wrapped up the game in superb fashion with another three tries from Thompson, Ryan Ince and Matt Whitley to seal the deal against Leigh and give the Vikings another morale boosting performance, going into The Qualifiers.

KEY BATTLES

I see this being a tight encounter for the opening 20 minutes or so, then Wigan should take control and kick on.

Williams vs Gilmore

George Williams has had a bit of a hit and miss season. He’s been great in patches, but rather quite for the most. For the talent he has, you expect to see something from him in every game, in recent weeks his kicking has improved a hell of a lot and it’s helped Wigan massively. As for Widnes, Joe Mellor is a key individual, who’s influence is clear to be seen. He’s popped up with three tries and eight assists this season, and in the absence of Rangi Chase, he’ll be looking to impress once again.

Three-quarters

It seems with Liam Marshall getting a rest this week, that Tom Davies will be given another go on the wing. And with Anthony Gelling returning, that should see Joe Burgess move back onto the wing from centre, where he’s most dangerous. As for Widnes, they’ve been in great form of late, and have their three-quarters to thank, with most of their tries coming from out there during their recent success. It should be interesting to see who gets the better of who on Sunday, as both have quality out wide.

Interchanges

This has always been key for Wigan. When it gets to the interchanges, they tend to lose Sean O’Loughlin early on, and start to crash in games. However, last week they manged to score a couple without him on the field. On a whole, Wigan will have the much stronger bench. However, with the likes of Lloyd White, Alex Gerrard and others amongst Widnes’ usual bench, they have got players who can make an instant impact in games, and Wigan will have to be ready to react.

PREDICTIONS

It’s such a huge game for Wigan Warriors, and even though I’ve said this each and every week for the past month or so, I genuinely believe this is it for their play-off chances. They just simply have to win this game, they can’t afford to lose anymore ground of the top four.

Wigan Warriors by 20

PRE-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:

“The players have trained very, very tough this week because we know we have got to be good on Sunday. We need to learn quickly and need to start to pick up the two points.

“We are not kidding ourselves, we need to get wins and it’s going to be tough but the pressure is on both teams.

“Widnes are flying and have got no injuries so they’ll be confident. Widnes have got a good record at the DW so we will show them the respect they deserve.”

Widnes Vikings head coach Denis Betts:

“We enjoy going there (DW) – it’s a great stadium with a great atmosphere and you’re playing one of the best teams in the competition over the last four years.

“We’re not looking too far ahead of ourselves – what will be, will be. We’ve got to do the things that are right by us to get the victory.

“Wherever we end up in the table we just have to take that challenge on (The Qualifiers) and go for it.”

SQUAD NEWS

Shaun Wane makes two changes to the side that drew with Huddersfield last week, with Tony Clubb and Anthony Gelling coming into the side for Liam Marshall and Joel Tomkins.

Dennis Betts makes two changes to the side that beat Leigh last week, with Tom Gilmore and Ryan Ince coming in for Rangi Chase and Jordan Johnstone.

SQUADS

Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Burgess, Clubb, Davies, Farrell, Field, Gelling, Gildart, Isa, Leuluai, McIlorum, Nuuausala, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sutton, Tierney, S Tomkins, Wells, Williams.

Widnes Vikings: Bridge, Buchanan, Burke, Cahill, Craven, Dudson, Gerrard, Gilmore, Heremaia, Houston, Ince, Marsh, Mellor, O’Carroll, Olbison, Runciman, Thompson, White, Whitley.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Scott Mikalauskas

Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan

Date/Time: Sunday 2nd July 2017 – 15:00pm GMT