Wigan Warriors host the Leeds Rhinos this Friday night in what’s the final game of the regular season for both sides. Leeds had the better of Wigan in their previous meeting this season, but Wigan will be looking for revenge in this huge game for Shaun Wane’s men.  

LAST TIME OUT

Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a woeful game of rugby league that saw the Warriors defeated 16-10 by Warrington Wolves. Wigan got off to the perfect start when after just one minute, Oliver Gildart was on the end of a Thomas Leuluai kick to put Wigan 4-0 ahead. The first half was one of errors, and poor discipline, and Warrington first try came on the back of a sloppy penalty, as Benjamin Jullien scored in the corner. The only bit of Wigan magic came in the 20th minute as John Bateman finished off a lovely Warriors move, to put them 10-4 in front. Ryan Atkins scored right on halftime to claw Warrington just two points behind going into the second half. Wigan wouldn’t score a single point in the second half, mainly due to their complete inability to attack. After a near 10-month absence, Ben Currie made his return to the side, and ultimately score the winner as he went near the posts. Stefan Ratchford kicked two penalties to wrap the game up for Warrington, as they finished up 16-10 winners.

Leeds Rhinos come into this game on the back of a scrappy 10-7 win against Hull FC. Leeds trailed 7-0 at halftime, only to turn it around in the second half, despite struggling with severe injury problems throughout the evening. The game’s first try came in the seventh minute as Scott Taylor barged his way over from dummy-half to give the black and whites a 6-0 lead. The game went rather sluggish for a good portion, as neither side could break through the defensive walls. However, if you can’t get over for a try, the next best thing is to kick a one-pointer. Right on the hooter, Marc Sneyd did just that, as his drop-goal extended their lead to 7-0 going into the second half. In the second half, Leeds finally got off the mark as Ryan Hall just about got over in the corner, with a great finish. About 10 minutes later, Rhinos took the lead as Jack Walker was on the end of a clever Joel Moon kick to go under the posts. Leeds held on for the final 20 minutes, and finished up 10-7 winners in what was a real struggle of a game for the Rhinos.

KEY BATTLES

Wigan will be looking to win the game early on, and not give Leeds a chance to grow into it and build up any confidence. Even with the changes, there are still a few experienced Rhinos players who will look to make the difference.

Sam Tomkins vs Ashton Golding

Sam Tomkins is well into his return from injury, and should now be kicking on and making a difference for his Wigan side. However, he’s struggled in recent weeks to do so, and I’m sure he’ll want to sort that out sooner, rather than later. As for Ashton Golding, it’s been a solid season from the young man. He’s really stepped up this year, and looks to be making that full-back position his own.

Michael McIlorum vs Matt Parcell

These two should have a great little tussle on Friday. They’re both great hookers, and have shown their class this season. Everyone knew of the ability of Michael McIlorum before this season. However, no one knew what to expect from Matt Parcell, and he’s proven to be a real key player for this Rhinos side, and his chipped in with 12 tries and 11 assists, which is as superb record for your first season.

Forwards

Leeds are missing quite a few players this week, and they’ll miss them massively. However, there are still a good selection of experienced players within their forward pack. The likes of Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Mitch Garbutt and Jimmy Keinhorst to name a few will be the ones who will need to step up and help the younger lads out on Friday. As for Wigan, they’re unchanged, so they’ll know what’s expected of them.

PREDICTION

Before seeing both squads, I really didn’t know which way this one would go. However, since seeing the Leeds side, and their clear sign of saving themselves for their huge Challenge Cup game next week, I must go with Wigan. It’s a huge game for them, not so much for Leeds, so there should only be one winner.

Wigan Warriors by 20

PRE-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:

“100 per cent we need to sharpen up kick defence. It’s poor, and I don’t like it. We’re going through it with the players. Some are just unacceptable.

“The way they scored tries from kicks… we rep’ defending that, time and again. When we were under pressure they scored, which was really annoying.

“We’ll work hard on it, all week. I know the week before was a tough one – I do get it – but it’s no excuse for me,”

Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott:

“It was dogged. There was a lot of fight, I don’t think there was much finesse about that. In the first half, we challenged Hull a bit with the ball, but defensively they were very good.

“I am really pleased we won with Keith Galloway going off so early and Stevie Ward not being able to return. It was not pretty, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be.

(On Galloway injury) “We really missed him tonight and we’re going to miss the ultimate professional he is for the rest of the season.”

SQUAD NEWS

Shaun Wane keeps the same squad that were defeated by Warrington Wolves last week. However, he has stated that he may make a couple changes to the starting side.

Brian McDermott makes six changes to the side that beat Hull FC last week, with Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Alex Sutcliffe, Harry Newman and Harvey Whiteley coming in for Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Keith Galloway, Adam Cuthbertson, Stevie Ward and Brad Singleton.

SQUADS

Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Joe Burgess, Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Callum Field, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Michael Mcilorum, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Sam Tomkins, Jack Wells and George Williams.

Leeds Rhinos: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Joel Moon, Matt Parcell, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Anthony Mullally, Jack Ormondroyd, Jordan Baldwinson, Jordan Lilley, Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki, Josh Jordan-Roberts, Jack Walker, Alex Sutcliffe, Harry Newman and Harvey Whiteley.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Ben Thaler

Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan

Date/Time: Friday 21st July 2017 – 20:00pm GMT