|Wigan travel to Doncaster on Sunday for the first time
since 1995 looking to progress to the quarter finals of the Powergen
That match was at the old Tatters Field ground. A young Jason Robinson
scored two of our four tries that day in a 28-10 victory.
These days Doncaster play at
Belle Vue, a venue which the share with
Doncaster Rovers football club.
The National League Division 1 opponents have won 5
matches in a row
under the leadership of former Castleford winger St John Ellis. You may
remember he played for Cas in the late 80s & early 90s and scored 40
tries in one season for them back in 1993/94.
Last year he led the Dragons to a 7th place play off
position finish in the old NFP.
Ellis has been trying to intimidate the Warriors side all week by
telling them to expect a tough physical battle!
He said: "They know they're going to get a physical battle, that's
the way we like to play. It's a physical game and, if you win the
hitting war, it goes a long way towards winning the game."
Wigan coach Stuart Raper responded by saying: "I'm fed up with
opposition coaches mouthing off and trying to intimidate Wigan. We're
going to let the game do the talking. We are taking this game very
Wigan have met Doncaster twice in the Challenge Cup previously.
The first meeting was at Doncaster in 1989. Just like this season we
visited them as cup holders. Joe Lydon scored four tries in a 38-6 win..
Denis Betts, Tony Iro and Shaun Edwards got the other tries and Kevin
Iro kicked five goals in front of a 5,274 crowd.
The second and last Challenge Cup meeting between the sides was at
this very stage of the Challenge Cup just three years a go at the JJB
Back then, the final score of
Wigan 38 Doncaster 2 suggested that it
was an easy victory and in the end it probably was. But at half time the
score was just 12-2 and Doncaster had put in a creditable performance
before running out of steam.
The question is can they produce a top quality 80 minute performance
this Sunday? I'm not so sure. We saw last year Leigh compete with us for
about an hour before being beaten and this will probably be the case
with Doncaster. The home support will help them but class will shine
through in the end.
There are plenty of unknown quantities in the Doncaster squad, as you
would expect from lower division opposition, but they do have one or two
familiar players with Super League experience.
Centre Marvin Golden played for Leeds between 1994 and 1999, but he
never really gained a regular starting place at Headingley. Stand Off
half Paul Mansson is an ex Salford, Widnes & Canberra player and Simon
Irving is also an influential player for the Dragons. They also be
looking for winger Jason Lee and full back Craig Ross to be on top form
speculated earlier in the week,
Sunday's game is expected to see 19 year old youngster Gareth Hock being
given his professional Warriors debut from the substitutes bench. After
suffering a bad injury last season, which ruled him out for six months,
he bounced back to become player of the series for England Unders 18s
against the Australian Schoolboys. To do that with little game time for
half a year was a tremendous achievement for him and it just shows what
potential he has. I'm looking forward to seeing him play. Some people
say he is our biggest prospect out of the many we currently have at the
Coach Raper has been forced to reshuffle the forward pack with Andy
Farrell joining Terry O'Connor and Ricky Bibey on the injury list. Terry
Newton is moved to the substitutes bench and will probably be used as a
back up prop for Danny Sculthorpe and Craig Smith. Stephen Wild could be
used in that role too but whether that's Raper's intention we'll have to
wait and see.
With Newton on the bench, Mark Smith gets a rare opportunity to
start. It'll be four years since he made his Warriors debut next week
and he has had to sit on the bench for most of that period. So he'll be
desperate to impress in the hope of gaining a regular first team start.
The back line is boosted by the return of Brett Dallas. At this stage
of the competition last year he scored 4 tries in the
72-6 victory against Union Trieziste
Catalane. I wouldn't bet against him repeating the feat at Belle Vue but
with this being his first game since being stretched off against Widnes
last July that may be asking a bit too much. The return of Dallas
offsets the loss of Paul Johnson but Jamie Ainscough will have to move
inside and partner Dave Hodgson in the centres.
Opposition Ones to Watch
Jason Lee & Craig Ross
Winger Jason Lee was
Doncaster's top try scorer last season with 22 tries. Full Back
Craig Ross wasn't far behind him. He scored 18 tries last year.
The Dragons will be looking to these two for there firepower in
NUMBERS: Ross: 1 Lee: 5