Not sure why I should be confident going into the derby on Friday.
- Our Easter form v St Helens over the years has generally
stunk (4 wins in 15 years).
- We've won just 1 of the last 7 derbies against the enemy at
- Our home form in the last twelve month's has generally been
- Whilst Saints have the league's best away record so far this
- Saints are also on a five match winning streak
- and we haven't really put in a big performance for a long, long
....it all points to a Saints win but you know what, I'm
feeling pretty good about Friday's game. I just feel we are due a
massive performance and now we are not far from full strength, I'm
expecting it to come.
I'm not really sure what to make of Saints at the moment,
because whilst a five match winning streak looks good on paper,
it's a run that includes victories over four of the bottom five in
the table. I think Friday will tell us a lot more about Saints
than those games.
For Wigan this match comes in the middle of
our run facing the bottom sides in the table, so it would be a
massive fillet to get two points here and get a big roll on
towards the second half of the season.
So why am I confident?
Well I just think our bench is going to look far stronger. Paul
Prescott, Liam Farrell and Lee Mossop are going to give us massive
impetus during the game whereas Saints to me will have to make
their starting pack weaker to make their bench stronger. Royce
Simmons likes to start Tony Puletua at Loose Forward and with
Chris Flannery dropping out the squad, surely Jon Wilkin will be
promoted from last week's bench against Wakefield?
week's bench that leaves Scott Moore, Sean Magennis and Tom
Makinson with a Matty Ashurst, Andrew Dixon or debutant Scott Hale
to add into that mix. To me their is a struggle for impact there
if Simmons goes for a powerful starting pack. I think he will be
forced to use Puletua in the front row rather than at Loose
Either way, if Wigan can get on top early I think
Saints will struggle to chase the game down. I think a good start
is key. James Graham is a brilliant 80 minute prop but if the
weather is hot he could well suffer for that, especially being a
ginger. Likewise James Roby. His workrate and stats this year are
unbelievable but a hot day could highlight the fact that Saints no
longer have him coming off the bench.
You look back at Saints visit here last year and although it
finished 26-24, Saints actually won quite comfortably and I think
it was the class hooking impact off the bench that proved the huge
difference. Wigan had started brilliantly that day but only got a
2-0 lead for their efforts. Saints managed to claim the first try,
Roby came on and a few minutes later it was all of a sudden 16-2
to St Helens.
Over a long period of time Wigan clawed back to
16-12, so what did Saints do? They threw Keiron Cunningham back on
from the bench. Bang, bang two tries from nothing and we are
chasing a big lead again at 26-12 and although we rallied for a
second time, it was too late.
So what I'm saying is that in that
game they had a Plan B on the bench and it proved vital for them.
They don't have that now, so what Wigan need to do is make sure we
force Saints into having to start scratching around for Plan B.
Try and control Roby and Graham early because if they don't work
for them, I don't know what else they have?
The other big factor
they had that day last year was Leon Pryce. He was outstanding but
will be absent this time. With Kyle Eastmond still frozen out, it
looks like Gary Wheeler and Jonny Lomax will teaming up in the
halves. If not, Scott Moore could go at half back but that option
would weaken their bench even further? Either way it's not really
ideal and it'll be a big ask for them to play opposite Paul Deacon
and Thomas Leuluai with Brett Finch on the horizon as well.
In fairness the whispers I hear about Lomax seem to be good,
but this a derby and he hasn't really been tested in an unnatural,
to him, half back role. Doing well against bottom of the table
sides is one thing, but derby day in bright sunshine with 21,000
Wigans fans humping pressure on you is a totally different kettle
of fish. A youngster called Lee Gaskell has partnered him in all
those recent games, and from what I've seen at academy level he is
a class act, but he's out injured this time so Wheeler and Lomax
will be a totally new and inexperienced combination. Wigan really
should be looking to slaughter these two. Put them under pressure
and make them sweat into mistakes.
Whilst writing this I've made a point on the redvee.net forums
to a Saints fan who basically said he believed Saints will win on
Friday because games are won in the forwards and I'm dismissing
that as complete bollocks to be honest. Of course a big pack on
it's day can be vital but I would suggest all Saints have is a big
pack and that's why they have so often been found out in recent
In last year's Grand Final and at Cardiff this
year I think Wigan killed Saints in the backs. We scored some
great tries from deep, which is something Saints couldn't really
Clearly Saints fans yet again are pinning hopes on them over
running us in the pack and yes they did that at DW Stadium last
year but from the team that did it last year, Matt Gidley, Chris
Flannery, Leon Pryce and Keiron Cunningham are not going to be
there this time. Whilst from our team that day swap Phil Bailey
for Ryan Hoffman and Feka Paleaaesina for Jeff Lima and on paper
that's an improvement whilst we also had no Paul Deacon, Harrison
Hansen or Lee Mossop that time. So on balance I think we are far
Another key to victory is that we don't give them
too many penalties because Saints are so well disciplined it is
untrue. Every team in Super League is clustered between conceding
on average around 7-10 penalties per match, except for St Helens.
They fly alone with an average of just 5.5 penalties conceded per
match. That's a huge advantage. Now you can argue whether that is
earned or pure bias or whatever but it is a fact and Wigan need to
be wary of it.
All in all, the more I've wrote this preview the
more confident I've become. We really should be beating Saints if
we are honest considering they have an inexperienced half back
combination and subs bench. We need to get out there and kick
their arses in the first twenty minutes. Get bloody ripped in and
try to beat them at their own game. Do that and I just can't see
past us. I genuinely don't believe Saints have the ability
nowadays to beat us with individual class. As ever though, we
shall see what happens on the day. Pride does come into it so who
knows what will happen. Just bring it on!