|What do the last
eight Wigan v St Helens Super League matches have in common?
Well they've all been won by the
home side. That stat alone tells you what a difficult task awaits the
Warriors as they make the short journey to Knowsley Road on Friday Night.
The last away win between the
sides was almost two years a go. Captain marvel Andy Farrell's drop goal
right on half time proved the difference in a fantastic
The similarities between the two
sides this season are their for all to see.
They've both won the same amount
of games, drawn the same amount and lost the same.
All that separates them in the
table are the two points Saints have had deducted for breaching the salary
They even come into the match in
exactly the same form during the last six matches.
A victory will see Wigan open up a
four point gap between the clubs. That would be massive although Saints
could claim the two points they lost back on appeal.
A loss however and we are hoping
Warrington don't rack up the points on Sunday at Wakefield or else we could
find ourselves out of the top six and we don't need that especially with
Hull and Bradford coming up soon.
It's a fine line which shows how
important this match is.
Coach Stuart Raper says "both
sides will be fired up for this one".
He added: "All the players will
put their bodies on the line. We have the confidence to know we can beat
Saints, we are going to have to be top of our game to do it. I don’t think
Good Friday will mean a lot, it is a different ground and when you play at
Knowsley Road you are playing on a lot smaller pitch and you have to play a
different style of game.”
Both sides know they'll need to
play 100% if they are to have a chance of winning.
If Saints play like they did at
Hull a fortnight a go they'll be murdered. On that night a 30-6 loss
But on the other hand they
defeated London 62-16 at home not so long a go and they had a pretty good
away record as proved in excellent away wins at Hull and Bradford.
How you can go from winning 62-16
one week to being utterly pathetic the next is staggering but that has been
St Helens this season.
Which Saints side will turn up on
Friday? Who knows?
Wigan are boosted ahead of the
game with Craig Smith and Danny Sculthorpe both declaring themselves fit.
Kevin Brown and Gareth Hock are also in the squad which sees a couple of
Paul Johnson, who has played
centre, scrum half and second row already this season, is switched to the
wing with Brett Dallas and Brian Carney being absent. Back in 1999 he was
regular winger under John Monie so he's no stranger to the position. Martin
Aspinwall replaces Johnson at centre.
Saints have been struggling with
just one prop this year in the form of Darren Britt. They have lost players
like Sonny Nickle, Vila Matautia, Peter Shiels and David Fairleigh in the
past two seasons and simple haven't replaced them.
But they have signed a new prop
and he will debut on Friday. 22 year old Keith Mason has signed from
Melbourne Storm. The Dewsbury born player was signed by them from Wakefield
at the beginning of 2002. He has suffered with injury ever since, making
just 4 starts in the NRL.
Fridays match will of course see
the Sculthorpe brothers come head to head.
Talking about this both players
say they plan to hit each other hard.
Paul Sculthorpe says: "It's
great to see him doing so well. But he'll be just another player on Friday.
I'll hit him as hard as I hit anybody else, if not a bit harder and he'll
probably try to take my head off, like he did last time."
Danny Sculthorpe said: "I love
playing against him. I give it that extra 10% so that, if I go round to his
house the day after, I can rib him a bit. He probably hits me harder too. We
have good crack in the build-up to a game, we just enjoy it."
Let's hope it's Danny doing the
ribbing at the end of this one.
I think the match will be tight
and it could come down to a drop goal. With Faz on the field I fancy us but
it will take one hell of an effort for us to win.
Opposition One to Watch
Double man of steel Paul Sculthorpe is
once again producing the goods for St Helens.
He leads the way for Saints in try scoring, goal kicking and total
He is also their top ball carrier and offloader so he is clearly the
If we can stop him playing we'll go someway to stopping Saints.