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Match Preview: St Helens - Challenge Cup Semi Final - 6th August 2011
Posted by Bilko on August 05 2011 - 01:09

Wigan Warriors v St Helens - Carnegie Challenge Cup Semi Final.
Saturday 6th August 2011. Kick Off 4:30pm at Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington.

Match Preview

I think in many respects this derby is even bigger than the Grand Final the two sides played last October. The prize for both sides is huge.

For Wigan - They of course are hoping to reach a new Wembley Cup Final for the first time. It's amazing really that a whole generation of Wigan fans have never made the pilgrimage to Wembley to watch Wigan play, especially considering the team have made 11 trips there in my 28 years of age. 13 years is a long time though and we are well overdue a return. That makes this a huge game for us. We have previous Semi Final demons which should be motivation enough!

For Saints - Well for them I think it's not just about reaching the cup final. This game would be huge for them in potentially stopping Wigan being the dominant force of this rivalry for the next few years. I predicted on the St Helens redvee.net forums last year (in about June - well before we won the title) that Wigan would dominate Super League for the next few seasons. I was laughed at but after winning the title, a trip to, and winning at, Wembley having seen off both Warrington and St Helens would go a long way to justifying that prediction. If Saints can halt Wigan here, and win the final, that would perhaps suggest they can compete for the next few years but to see Wigan win the cup after winning the league, would be hard for them to stomach. Especially with James Graham leaving, possibly Leon Pryce as well and Paul Wellens getting even older. They do have some great kids at St Helens but losing can become a habit, just like winning can become a habit.

It's all about this game first though and I've got to be honest, I'm very confident. How can you not be when we've embarked on an 8 match winning streak which included victories over six of the other seven sides in the current top 8.

Saints themselves are on a five match winning streak but they haven't beaten any top 4 rival in that run. In fact they have failed to beat any top 4 rival all this season having lost to both Wigan and Warrington twice and also at Huddersfield.

Ok maybe Saints have been massive victims of "injury crisis" after "injury crisis" but here's a dose of reality. This is a table which basically adds together the number of appearances between each clubs 1-13 squad numbers.

Harlequins 253
Crusaders 246
Huddersfield 237
Salford 236
Castleford 234
Hull FC 234
Leeds 232
Warrington 228
Catalan 225
St Helens 221
Wigan 216
Bradford 201
Wakefield 139

So there you go. Saints have had more value from their squad numbers 1-13 than we have but yet our record against the big sides holds up pretty good, whilst Saints record doesn't. Perhaps it's more a case of them having poor squad depth?

Since Michael Maguire became Wigan coach our once poor derby record has turned on it's head. In fact I think Wigan have dominated all the derbies that have been away from the DW Stadium.

I include Cardiff this year in that remark. Granted we were lucky to get a draw in the end but up until the hour mark we were in total control.

Good Friday last year at Knowsley Road was a very tight game in many aspects but worth remembering that both St Helens tries came when Wigan were down to 12 men with a sin bin.

The Grand Final last year was, as finals go, a comfortable victory whilst last month at Stobart Stadium was a total non contest from a Saints point of view.

The two times Saints have played well in since Maguire came here have been in both contests played at DW Stadium. They won 26-24 last June whilst of course of Good Friday they were 54 seconds away from victory again before Wigan snatched it.

Does any of that count for anything? Probably not but I am convinced that if Wigan play at their best in both defence and attack, St Helens will struggle to compete. They are not the Saints of old. Jamie Foster aside, I think the lack of pace in the backs at St Helens is startling. When we played Warrington two weeks ago both sides were scoring tries for fun, from deep! I can't see who is going to do that for Saints. They struggled to find any breaks in the game at Widnes last month.

I also think the fact that Saints have won the penalty count comfortably in all three previous derbies this year, yet haven't won any of them, say's a lot. In fact the combined penalty count in those three derbies is an amazing 21-6 in St Helens favour (10-3 in Cardiff, 5-1 on Good Friday, 6-2 at Stobart).

Wigan have got to take heart from that. Despite this apparent all singing, all dancing, all dominating, powerful St Helens pack, we've never lost against them this year despite getting little help from the referees. I mean they are pretty miserable penalty returns by anyone's standards.

Saints are very tight in discipline though and they will need to be I think to have any chance. They'll probably try to win the game by outscoring us. What they've lost in the last year or two hasn't been in attack but in defence. This year they are conceding five points per match more than us and that lack of standard in defence was a big reason why they kept falling at the final hurdle to win trophies under Mick Potter and it hasn't improved so far under Royce Simmons.

The only chink Saints could find in Wigan's defence at Widnes last time out was down our right side defence. They made a couple of breaks on Josh Charnley and Joel Tomkins but never seemed to cotton on to that fact. They just kept reverting back to type and sticking it up the middle through James Roby and James Graham.

I can't see Graham and Roby being that crap again though and the defence on Charnley and Joel's wing is a massive worry for me. But if Josh can contribute up the other end in attack, that will go a long way to nullifying that because we know Pat and Sam are going to be threats. We'll kill them out wide if given the chance.

We know Saints love a forwards battle but our pack is more than up to that challenge. I'll stress again that is a joke that Lee Mossop doesn't even seem to be in contention for an England place. The fact that he is still keeping pace with the unbelievable Sam Tomkins in our player of the season voting speaks volumes for the guy. We've been able to rotate the support cast well in recent weeks with Andy Coley, Ryan Hoffman, Paul Prescott, Harrison Hansen and Sean O'Loughlin all missing at least one of the last five matches. That should keep us fresh up front despite what was a hectic July. That shows the value of having a big and healthy squad.

So in ending this preview I'll reiterate how confident I am that we will win. Why am I confident? Because the Warrington win showed how much this Wigan side wants to win this cup. Mental fragility doesn't exist under Michael Maguire. We don't fear Saints anymore and the semi final demons just won't happen under him. There is absolutely no way we will go out there on Saturday and just freeze like we did in the 2007 and 2009 Semi Finals. If Saints end up beating us they'll have genuinely played out their skins to do so rather than us just being poor and off guard. If that happens we'll just have to take our hats off to them.

19 Man Squads

Wigan
IN:l Harrison Hansen, Paul Prescott
OUT:l Stefan Marsh, Jack Hughes

Full 19: Sam Tomkins, George Carmont, Pat Richards, Paul Deacon, Thomas Leuluai, Michael McIlorum, Andy Coley, Harrison Hansen, Joel Tomkins, Sean O'Loughlin, Paul Prescott, Jeff Lima, Ryan Hoffman, Brett Finch, Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell, Josh Charnley, Gareth Hock, Ben Cross.

St Helens
IN:l Sia Soliola, Francis Meli, Paul Clough
OUT:l Matty Ashurst, Shaun Magennis, Nathan Ashe

Full 19: Paul Wellens, Michael Shenton, Sia Soliola, Francis Meli, Leon Pryce, Kyle Eastmond, James Roby, James Graham, Tony Puletua, Jon Wilkin, Chris Flannery, Scott Moore, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paul Clough, Andrew Dixon, Jonny Lomax, Jamie Foster, Lee Gaskell, Thomas Makinson.

Match Referee

Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury) - Age 35
First Pro Game: York v Batley - March 28th 1999
First Super League Game: Halifax 30 Salford 18 - May 6th 2001
First Wigan Game: Wakefield 14 Wigan 30 - May 1st 2002

Wigan's Record when this referee is appointed

Wigan have Won 32, Drawn 2 and Lost 13 from 47 appointments.
This Season: Won 2, Drawn 2, Lost 1 from 6 appointments.

Video Referee

Steve Ganson

Challenge Cup Head to Head Records

Overall Played 26 Wigan 14 Wins St Helens 9 Wins 3 Draws

Full List of Previous Challenge Cup Ties

Date Round Home Team Away Team
1896-1897 Quarter Final St Helens 11 Wigan 00
1928-1929 Quarter Final St Helens 02 Wigan 02
1928-1929 QF Replay Wigan 25 St Helens 05
1929-1930 Semi Final Wigan 05 St Helens 05 (at Swinton)
1929-1930 SF Replay St Helens 22 Wigan 10 (at Leigh)
1960-1961 Final St Helens 12 Wigan 06 (at Wembley)
1964-1965 Round 2 Wigan 07 St Helens 02
1965-1966 Final St Helens 21 Wigan 02 (at Wembley)
1972-1973 Round 2 Wigan 15 St Helens 02
1976-1977 Round 2 Wigan 04 St Helens 09
1981-1982 Round 1 St Helens 12 Wigan 20
1983-1984 Quarter Final St Helens 07 Wigan 16
1985-1986 Round 2 Wigan 24 St Helens 14
1988-1989 Final Wigan 27 St Helens 00 (at Wembley)
1989-1990 Semi Final Wigan 20 St Helens 14 (at Old Trafford)
1990-1991 Final Wigan 13 St Helens 08 (at Wembley)
1991-1992 Quarter Final St Helens 06 Wigan 13
1992-1993 Round 2 Wigan 23 St Helens 03
1994-1995 Round 4 Wigan 16 St Helens 16
1994-1995 R4 Replay St Helens 24 Wigan 40
1997 Round 4 St Helens 26 Wigan 16
1998 Quarter Final Wigan 22 St Helens 10
2001 Round 4 St Helens 22 Wigan 08
2002 Final Wigan 21 St Helens 12 (at Murrayfield)
2004 Final St Helens 32 Wigan 16 (at Cardiff)
2005 Quarter Final St Helens 75 Wigan 00

Wigan Form Guide - Last Six Matches - Won 6 Lost 0

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
30th July Hull FC (A)

SL 16 Round 23

Won 30-16
23rd July Warrington (A) Challenge Cup QF Won 44-24
15th July Wakefield (H) SL 16 Round 22 Won 48-06
9th July Harlequins (A) SL 16 Round 21 Won 38-06
5th July Castleford (H) SL 16 Round 3 Won 28-16
1st July Leeds (H) SL 16 Round 20 Won 26-24

St Helens Form Guide - Last Six Matches - Won 5 Lost 1

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
30th July Castleford (A) SL 16 Round 23 Won 46-26
24th July Hull KR (H) Challenge Cup QF Won 54-06
15th July Catalan (A) SL 16 Round 22 Won 40-18
10th July Wakefield (A) SL 16 Round 21 Won 46-06
1st July Hull FC (H) SL 16 Round 20 Won 28-14
24th June Warrington (A) SL 16 Round 19 Lost 28-35

Ticket Details

Close to sell out - check with club for details.

UK TV Coverage

Live Coverage Saturday 4:15pm

Presenter: Clare Balding. Commentary: Dave Woods & John Kear.

International TV Coverage

Egypt LIVE Saturday 5:30pm OSN Sports 2
Dubai LIVE Saturday 7:30pm OSN Sports 2
Australia Delay Late Sunday Midnight Channel Nine

Radio Commentary

102.4 Wish FM - Injured Wigan player Chris Tuson will join commentator Mark Wilson and Saints summariser Mike Bennett for Full Match Commentary. Build up with presenter Matt Munroe beings at 3pm. Wish FM's signal is loud and clear at the ground in Warrington if you want to listen whilst at the game.

BBC Radio Manchester 95.1FM/DAB - Commentary after 3pm football coverage concludes.

BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra - National Radio Commentary on DAB Digital Radio with Sean Long summarising the commentary team of Stuart Pyke and David Oates.

Weather Forecast

Mixture of Sunshine and Showers

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