Well then. A dull, boring match to look forward to on Saturday eh?
Hmmm, my belly isn't agreeing with that. This is a huge game.
League Champions against the Cup Holders - it doesn't get any
bigger than that, and it's only a Quarter Final!|
comes round 61 days will have passed since the draw was made and
very little has changed in those two months. Both sides have won 7
league games since that draw with Wigan's game in hand nudging
them one point clear at the top of the table.
Now it is fair to say that Warrington have produced some
superb rugby league this season but Wigan should not be in fear
going into the Halliwell Jones Stadium. Our old hoo-doo at the
venue has been crushed by Michael Maguire who has won three out of
three trips to the place since he came in. Granted two of them
were in pre season games but they were certainly full bloodied
Wigan should also look at their away record under Maguire. I
think it actually suits us to play this game away from home
because in 35 matches away from the DW since he took over, we've
lost just three. That is a phenomenal record that he, and his
team, should be proud of. Especially when you consider that two of
those three defeats came to tries scored, by Bradford and Leeds
respectively, in the final two minutes of each contest. So we know
how to win games away from home.
It is fair to say that Warrington did a proper job on Wigan
when they visited us in March. The won 24-6 at the DW and deserved
their victory but let me list who we can call upon this Saturday,
who didn't play on that night........
Pat Richards, Paul Deacon, Joel Tomkins, Gareth
Hock, Ben Cross.
........plus back then we had a non match fit Brett Finch who
was forced into making a difficult debut because of those absences.
So their are five players (plus a fully fit Finch) who
are pretty much added to our team this weekend who didn't play
last March. Massive difference. Pat is immediate fire power and
goal kicking. Deacon is your tactical kicking threat, we saw a
fully fit Finch totally dominate St Helens away last month and
Hock and Cross are a huge boost to the pack. Particularly Hock is
he repeats his form from last week's contest against Wakefield.
(Edit: Although looking at the 19 he's going to have to make a
difficult decision on who to omit in the pack. Cross might not
even make it? It say's a lot about our squad depth.)
I haven't even mentioned Stuart Fielden yet. Now
coach Michael Maguire is saying he is knocking on the door to play
but I'm pleased that he has decided not to risk him. We should be confident of
winning without Stuart, but if we get past this massive game, what
a boost it'll be to get Stuart back. I mean our squad (touch
wood) is pretty full fit at the moment with Stuart and Eamon
O'Carroll back in training.
Those returns, plus the recent additions of Hock and
Cross, should give us a real shot at winning the league and cup
double this year BUT this game is key. Get past this game and I
think we have the squad to go on and win both trophies. In my
opinion no one comes close to having the squad depth we have,
especially if Warrington is out of the way in terms of the cup.
Now for Wigan to win they clearly have to stifle Warrington's
clinical attack. We can't afford to gift them too many
penalties because they will kill us. They have scored an average
of 38.5 points per game in Super League this season. That is an
amazing 35 tries more than us and ours is the second best attack
(29.8 points per game).
So that's 35 extra tries scored and yet that hasn't got them
top of the table! Staggering really isn't it? I think that
actually say's more about Wigan than Warrington. Ok we haven't
been as pleasing on the eye as them at times but we must be doing
other things right if a team that has scored 35 tries more than us
can still be below us in the table.
In fact Warrington's hammering of teams has probably helped us
because we've been coming off the park disappointed with 48-6,
38-6, 40-6 and 54-6 type victories that we've racked up in the
last couple of months. You could argue also that Warrington's
determination to rack up the points has come back to haunt them
when they've gotten into tight matches.
I mean, the other week on the message board I was talking about
qualities" and highlighted how Wigan have nicked points from
losing positions so often this season. Ok they chucked points to
St Helens in Cardiff and at Castleford away but I pointed to nine points
we've arguably plucked from the jaw's of defeat.
Hull (H) - They were doing a cracking job on us. 12-8 down with
13 to play and down to 12 men. We nicked a 14-12 win.
Hudds (A) - Not really a rescue effort but to go there without Sam
Tomkins, Pat Richards, Paul Deacon, Stuart Fielden, Joel Tomkins
and Brett Finch and claim 2 points was a huge effort. Huddersfield
battered us that night but we somehow defended them out for ages.
Leeds (A) - The opposite of Cas (A). 22-4 down with 20 to go. Even
22-14 down with 2 minutes and 10 seconds left we earned a point
Saints (H) - 56 seconds away from defeat we scored a try to claim the
Leeds (H) - Bit of luck for sure but had to come from behind and
hang on to win 26-24.
Theirs 9 big points we've earned and if you took those points
away we'd be sat in 6th place in the table right now. Compare that
when they have gotten into tight games. They have not had the same
kind of success and had they done so, they would be well clear at
the top of the table right now and I'd admit that would be a
fairer reflection on the season. Ok they did nick a late win over Hull
KR but Catalan, Hull and Salford have been able to frustrate
them, at home, and claim close wins. So that's perhaps a chink in
At the end of the day I'm not sure all that I've written above
will count for much. This will be an all out full bloodied cup tie
and it will come down to which team holds their nerve most. Who'll
make the least errors, who'll concede the least penalties, who'll
have the best kicking game and who'll convert the most pressure.
The side that wastes more of it's opportunities will lose!
If Wigan do have an edge, I actually think it comes in the
pack. I know Fielden might not play for us but Adrian Morley is a
huge loss for Warrington. They may well make up for him physically
but mentally not seeing Morley charging in will prove a boost for
The biggest key could perhaps be getting ahead. I don't think
you want to be chasing down an over two score lead in this tie. I
will die though if this goes to Golden Point. It could be that
close and I recall going through 9 minutes of it for an academy
play off game a couple of years ago and believe me it was tough to
watch, and that was only an Under 18s game! Just get the win
Wigan, anyway you want, and then I can sod off for a week on
holiday with a semi final to return to! Bring it on!