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Super League Qualifying Play-off Preview: Wigan Warriors vs Huddersfield Giants

Date: Thursday 18th September
Venue: DW Stadium
Kick-off: 8pm

Teams

Wigan 19 man squad: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, Dudson, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Green, Hughes, McIlorum, O’Loughlin, Pettybourne, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Tomkins

Huddersfield 19 man squad: Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Bailey, Lawrence, Patrick, Faiumu, Ta’ai, Broughton, Kaufusi, Johnson, Connor

Form

Wigan Warriors

Rd 27 – Warrington (H), W 24-20
Rd 26 – Leeds (H), W 21-6
Rd 25 – Widnes (A), L 24-10
Rd 24 – Hull KR (A), D 14-14
Rd 23 – Salford (H), W 45-4

Huddersfield Giants

Rd 27 – St Helens (H), W 17-16
Rd 26 – Hull FC (H), W 38-28
Rd 25 – Warrington (A), D 24-24
Rd 24 – Widnes (H), W 28-14
Rd 23 – Wakefield (A), W 18-36

Preview

Huddersfield Giants travel to the DW Stadium on Thursday to face the Wigan Warriors in the first qualifying play-off.

The winners on Thursday night will progress to the semi-finals and could be rewarded with the ‘club call’ should Castleford beat St Helens on Friday. The losers will get another chance next week.

Huddersfield are unbeaten in their last 7 games, and their impressive end of season form has seen them finish 3rd, level on points with Wigan in 2nd. The 17-16 win against St Helens on Friday capped off a remarkable end of season run of form and they’ll be desperate to fare better this time round in the play-offs compared to last season.

Wigan have also put in two outstanding performances recently to beat rivals Warrington and Leeds and will be looking to repeat the achievements of last season which saw them claim Grand Final glory.

Shaun Wane has named an unchanged 19 man squad from the 24-20 win last week against Warrington, although the Warriors are still without Dominic Manfredi and Iain Thornley.

The game has come too quickly for the influential Danny Brough to return for Huddersfield as the stand-off misses out with a groin injury. Luke Robinson has been cleared to play after being forced off in last week’s win against Saints. Paul Anderson is also able to recall the experience of Eorl Crabtree and Scott Grix.

Key Battles

Michael McIlorum v Shaun Lunt

James Roby and Daryl Clark are expected to be Steve McNamara’s first choice hookers for England this Autumn, but Michael McIlorum and Shaun Lunt will both be looking to impress the England coach on Thursday. Both are equally skilled at quick play the balls and forcing their side to make the metres going forward. Lunt missed most of the mid-season through injury but has scored 4 tries in 5 games since his return. McIlorum allowed his temper to affect his focus against Warrington last week and will be looking to return to his best form on Thursday.

Josh Charnley v Leroy Cudjoe

In play-off rugby you’re looking for talented individuals who can produce a moment of magic which can turn a game in your team’s favour. Both Leroy Cudjoe and Josh Charnley have shown in recent weeks that they’re capable of this. Charnley’s 2 tries against Warrington were top draw and has now scored 19 tries in 17 appearances this season. Cudjoe scored a vital try against St Helens last week before sailing over the important drop goal, and the pacey centre should be credited for a lot of Jermaine McGillvary’s 20 tries this campaign.

Matty Smith v Luke Robinson

Matty Smith has been one of Wigan’s most influential players this season, and his contributions saw him named in the Super League dream team this week. He had a poor game last week by his standards and will be looking to regain the form he’s shown all season. He’s scored 6 drop goals this campaign, an attribute which could be crucial in close play-off games. Huddersfield’s Luke Robinson will be left with most of the responsibility in the middle of the line due to Danny Brough’s absence, but if the 30 year old can produce high quality pace, creativity and kicking game in the halves it could be vital to his side’s success.

Previous Meetings This Season

The two sides last met at the John Smith’s Stadium in May, with Huddersfield winning a hard fought contest 31-22. It was the Giants’ second win over the Warriors this season after a 24-8 opening day victory at the DW Stadium back in February.

The sides met at the same stage of the play-offs last season with Wigan progressing after an emphatic 22-8 win.

Prediction

It’s the time of year when Wigan produce their best rugby league. Wigan by 12.

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