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2002 Match Preview: St Helens (H)
Match Preview: Saints Match Preview Posted on Saturday, September 07 2002 @ 00:37:54 BST  by Bilko

Wigan v Saints is without doubt the biggest game in Rugby League.

The pride and passion from both the fans and players will be there for all to see on Sunday and it's a 3pm kick off as well. There's a novelty.

Wigan need to bounce straight back following the Hull defeat but could they be attempting to do it with a new player in the shape of Danny Sculthorpe?

We shall see, read on for my preview.

 

Wigan Warriors v St Helens
Tetley's Super League Round 26 at the JJB Stadium
Sunday 8th September. Kick Off 3:05pm

Note: All words highlighted red are clickable links.

This is a massive game for both sides. Wigan need to win if they are going to hold on to the slim chance of finishing in the top 2, whilst Saints have to win to maintain top spot in the table.

But now that Bradford have beaten Leeds are we now fighting a lost cause as far as a top 2 finish is concerned?

I don't think we are. Obviously we need to beat Saints or else we can't mathematically do it but if we beat Bradford as well, next week at Valley Parade, then I fancy us.

The reason I believe we should not give up hope is because the Bulls travel to Hull in the last round of the season. That trip will not be easy for them especially with Hull wanting to go out with a bang during their final games at the Boulevard. So there is still hope but admittedly its about as slim as Victoria Beckham.

I can only hope that Wigan are going to be classed as "underdogs" by the media for this game because it's happened the last two times the sides have met and we have won.

Back in April for the Cup Final, the media didn't give us a prayer of beating a St Helens side that had demolished Leeds 42-16 in the semi final. But we defied the odds and put in a magnificent performance. Then back in July, again we were not given a chance by the press due to our injury crisis but the Warriors team ignored the underdog tag and ground out an impressive 22-8 victory.

Coach Stuart Raper seems happy to put all the pressure on St Helens. Earlier this week he branded them "red-hot favourites." for this game. I wouldn't go that far though. Of course Saints are playing some outstanding rugby at the moment but that means nothing. This is a Wigan v St Helens derby, the form book is torn up and thrown out of the window.

Saints coach Ian Millward has again been whining ahead of this game. First he decided to moan by questioning our compliance with the salary cap and then he had a whinge about the "minor premiers" not getting a trophy. Of course when Wigan and Bradford finished top in the two seasons prior to this one, nothing was said by him but now he has to groan about it. If he is the great coach that Saints fans insist that he is then he shouldn't feel the need to be so whiney all the time should he?
Paul Sculthorpe, the 2001 Man of Steel, has kept up his consistency this season and for me he is the only rival to our very own Adrian Lam for the 2002 Man of Steel which will be awarded in Manchester on 15th October. Wigan will find it difficult to stop this inspirational player but if they can control him, they'll go some way to controlling Saints. 

Tommy Martyn is another man who has to be stopped. He never seems to fail to score against us and although I think he is well past his best, one bit of "Tommy Magic" could be the difference on the day as proved earlier in the season at Knowsley Road. 

Danny Sculthorpe, the brother of Saints Paul, is finally in contention for a Warriors first team spot. He returned to the club this week following a month long loan spell at his old NFP team Rochdale Hornets. Reportedly he is on the verge of induction into the Wigan first team squad but is this week too early for him? Well I wouldn't know but Raper has chosen only 16 players at the moment, could Danny be the 17th player? You never know. Maybe Raper is giving Danny extra time to prove his fitness? Only time will tell but if he does make his debut it will be great to see him put a nightmare season behind him.

One big blow to Wigan's chances in this game is the loss of Second Rower Dave Furner. He has been outstanding all season and although his replacement, Danny Tickle, hasn't done anything wrong so far in his Warriors career, his lack of big game experience worries me.

Despite the loss of Furner, I still believe we can win this game, although it is going to take one hell of an effort.

Team News

Wigan - Coach Raper has named 16 players for this game with one more to be added later.

The sixteen he has named are: Kris Radlinski, Brian Carney, Jamie Ainscough, Dave Hodgson, Gary Connolly, Julian O'Neill, Adrian Lam, Terry O'Connor, Terry Newton, Craig Smith, Mark Smith, Danny Tickle, Andy Farrell, Mick Cassidy, Sean O'Loughlin and Harvey Howard.

Saints - Anthony Stewart is unlikely to return from his knee injury, so John Kirkpatrick continues on the wing. Paul Wellens and Darren Britt are still out following their knee operations, so winger Darren Albert continues at fullback.

Match Referee: Russell Smith

TV: Sky Digital customers: Live 3pm
Cable Customers: Tape Delay 6pm.
Radio: Full uninterrupted match commentary can be heard on 102.4 Wish FM in Wigan & St Helens. BBC GMR 95.1FM and BBC Radio Merseyside on 1458AM/MW will also carry commentary on the game but mixed in with reports on other teams. Nationally, BBC Radio 5 Live on 909am/mw will have updates during "Sunday Sport on 5".
Internet: No internet coverage.


Previous Super League Encounters in Wigan

 

1996 Warriors 35 Saints 19*
1997 Warriors 10 Saints 22*
1998 Warriors 38 Saints 4*
1999 Warriors 12 Saints 14*
1999 Warriors 28 Saints 20*
2000 Warriors 28 Saints 30
2000 Warriors 16 Saints 54 (Play Offs)
2001 Warriors 22 Saints 22
2001 Warriors 40 Saints 6
2001 Warriors 44 Saints 10 (Play Offs)
2002 Warriors 22 Saints 8

* Denotes at Central Park otherwise JJB Stadium.

Super League record since 1996: Warriors 12, Saints 9, 1 draw
Super League record since 1996 in Wigan: Warriors 6, Saints 4, 1 draw

Earlier this Season:
Saints 19 Warriors 0 01/04 SL Round 5 at Knowsley Road
Saints 12 Warriors 21 27/04 Challenge Cup Final at Murrayfield
Warriors 22 Saints 8 30/07 SL Round 18 at JJB Stadium

Stats

Current Form:
Wigan: WWWWWL
Saints: LWWWWW 

Top Try scorers:
Wigan: Kris Radlinski, Adrian Lam 12
Saints: Darren Albert 18

Top Goal scorers:
Wigan: Andy Farrell 60
Saints: Paul Sculthorpe 91

Top Points scorers:
Wigan: Andy Farrell 161
Saints: Paul Sculthorpe 231

Match Day Weather

Light Showers Sunny spells mixed with light Showers.

Temp: High: 18°C Low: 9°C
Wind: 12 mph SE

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