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Play Off Match Preview: Catalan (H) - 25th September 2011 at DW Stadium
Posted by Bilko on September 23 2011 - 17:31

Wigan (2nd) v Catalan (6th) - Engage Super League XVI Play Off Eliminator.
Sunday 25th September 2011. Kick Off 5:00pm at DW Stadium.

Match Preview

Well I must admit I've resigned myself to the fact that this Wigan side just does not have the legs to win the Grand Final this year, so I'll be honest it wouldn't bother me if we crashed out on the play offs this Sunday.

I hate being negative but now we've been through a cup final success, you really can see how much the cup final takes out of a side. We are mirroring Warrington's season last year. Worked hard all regular season, got pipped for a vital position in the league table late on and ended up with a tough first round play off game against St Helens.

It's not just that though, this whole play off system leaves me deflated. I mean you work hard all season and what for? Last week we ended up with the toughest game of the lot! Really we'd have been better off easing off completely for the cup run, finishing 5th and ending up with Hull at home and then a woefully out of form Huddersfield away tonight to get to next week. Ok we'd lose a second chance but I think that is far easier than what we've ended up with! Would you rather be going to Huddersfield away tonight with a good crowd on or playing Catalan at home with an empty away stand? 

I've been having a read of this - a preview by a Saints fan who writes that "1v4 and 2v3 games undermine the play off system by throwing huge games into the opening round when instead we should be building towards the pinnacle." - I think that is spot on. This current system halts the momentum of two teams that have performed well all year, for no reason what so ever.

The crowds are clearly not buying the play offs either. Last week saw a crowd of just 12,893 for a derby against St Helens! That's the worst home derby crowd since 12,461 turned up for a late Sunday Evening match at Central Park in June 1998. Apart from that, you have to go way back to Boxing Day 1983 for a lower crowd than last Sunday. That's quite condemning!

But should it be a surprise? £60-80 for Wembley + £20 for Warrington away + £20 for Saints (H) + £20 for Catalan (H) + another £20 and travel expenses next week if we win + a potential huge priced Grand Final ticket - all within the space of about 6 weeks is a lot of money. You can't really blame some fans for choosing to opt out of a game that is not vital to the season's outcome.

Then again fans are hardly lapping up this week's clash with Catalan. 5pm Sunday is a terrible kick off time and the thought of attending a game knowing that their will be zero away fans in attendance is a struggle even for me, a die hard fan!

It's not just us though. Saints themselves only brought 2,800 for the game last week. To be fair that is a good following in my book but I can't remember them too often failing to sell out the North Stand. Leeds had just 9,075 on at Headingley also.

The bottom line is that unlike in Australia, we do not have the fitness nor the quality in depth to make the top 8 play offs exciting. Aside from a hard fought game at Wigan - scorelines of 47-0, 56-6 and 42-10 elsewhere made for dreadful viewing. It's not just this year. Remember the "classic" week 1 play off games of the last two years? Leeds 44 Hull KR 8? St Helens 15 Huddersfield 2? Wigan 18 Castleford 12? Huddersfield 18 Crusaders 12? Hull 4 Hull KR 21? - Those last four may seem like close scores but they were all terribly boring to watch on tv!

This "second chance" scenario gives mixed omens for Wigan as well. Since the play offs went up to the top 8 - a side getting a "second chance" has failed three times out of four to take it. But the only successful side was Wigan last year when we beat Hull KR (a match that hardly anyone Wigan fan I've spoke to seems to remember - again that say's a lot about this play off system).

Wigan also have the demons of having been beaten home and away by Catalan this year. Not just beaten they were comprehensively turned over in both contests. I do feel that the 47-28 home loss in April was the result of the players being distracted by news of Michael Maguire's departure which was announced a week later but take nothing away from Catalan, they hammered us! The away game was a complete no show for us as well. 20-12 flattered us and it was like we'd brought back Brian Noble as coach for the weekend - we knew pretty early in the game that we were not going to win.

So the fact they've beaten us twice combined with the fact we look knackered has perhaps led to a bit of desperation from Michael Maguire? On Tuesday he announced that he has banned his players from talking to the media this week. I actually thought it was a smart move. Giving an interview takes nothing out of you physically but mentally it could easily be a distraction from the job ahead, especially if the interviewer is focusing on the negative aspects of their game, like tiredness for example.

All Maguire has done, in my view, is to shut the world out and get the players focused on the job head. The reaction of some of the games journalists on twitter left me totally bemused though because last year their was a total non-reaction when he did exactly the same ahead of the play off semi final at Leeds. In fact it was such a non-reaction that I didn't even know it had happened to I heard about it this week.

I totally understand that their is a constant battle to get the game promoted on a national level but we are talking about one week in the whole year. It's not like the club have been unaccommodating the rest of the time. I mean only last week, Sean O'Loughlin spent two hours live on BBC Radio Manchester for their "Rugby League Extra" show. Just seemed like a massive over-reaction to me, especially considering Maguire did his weekly press conference as normal.

I suspect a lot of the re-action has been because Maguire has given these journalists absolutely nothing to write about in his time here. He's always been a dead straight bat in answering questions - so why moan when he finally gives you a story?

Whether the decision by Maguire will work remains to be seen. I think we'll know in about five minutes on Sunday. We need to start with big energy and show Catalan pretty quickly that we are up for this fight. If they control the match early, we won't win. You really do not want to be chasing games down in the play offs. We had one famous comeback once, but it doesn't happen very often.

So can we win? Well a lot comes down to Sam Tomkins for me. I suspect he wasn't fit against Saints. Every time he got the ball at full back he looked desperate to get rid of it rather than risk being tackled. That's not normal!

He wasn't the only flat player though. Their were too many! We need a step up from quite a few players, especially up the middle. In a way it could work in our favour that the pressure is off a little. We can chance our arm a bit more?

We know what to expect from Catalan however. They will pump us up the middle and if we are not on our game, they will run over us. I really don't expect a Wigan win sadly but at the very least I want to see us fighting and not going out with a whimper. I hope our boys prove me wrong! We shall see!

19 Man Squads

Wigan
IN:l Chris Tuson
OUT:l Ben Cross
Full 19: Sam Tomkins, Darrell Goulding, 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, Chris Tuson, Josh Charnley.

Catalan
IN:l Michael Simon
OUT:l David Ferriol
Full 19: Clint Greenshields, Damien Blanch, Setaimata Sa, Cyril Stacul, Thomas Bosc, Scott Dureau, Ian Henderson, Rémi Casty, Sébastien Raguin, Steve Menzies, Grégory Mounis, Jean-Phillipe Baile, Daryl Millard, Frédéric Vaccari, Michael Simon, Jamel Fakir, Lopini Paea, Jason Baitieri, Eloi Pelissier.

Match Referee

Steve Ganson (St Helens) - Age 41
First Pro Game: Barrow v Carlisle - 27th August 1995
First Super League Game: Castleford 22 Paris 18 - 17th August 1996
First Wigan Game: Halifax 18 Wigan 46 - 18th May 1997

Wigan's Record when this referee is appointed

Wigan have Won 50 and Lost 22 (4 draws) from 76 appointments.
This Season: Won 3 and Lost 0 from 3 appointments.

Video Referee

Phil Bentham

Final Super League XVI League Positions

  Team P W D L F A Diff Pts
2nd Wigan Warriors 27 20 3 4 852 432 +420 43
6th Catalan Dragons 27 15 1 11 689 626 +63 31

Super League Era Head to Head Record including Play Offs

Overall Played 15 Wigan 8 Wins Catalan 6 Wins 1 Draw
At Wigan Played 6 Wigan 5 Wins Catalan 2 Wins 0 Draws
SL Play Offs Played 1 Wigan 1 Win Catalan 0 Wins 0 Draws
SL PO at Wigan Played 0 Wigan 0 Wins Catalan 0 Wins 0 Draws

Wigan Form Guide - Last Six Matches - Won 4 Lost 2

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
18th September St Helens (H) SL 16 Play Offs Lost 18-26
9th September Crusaders (H) SL 16 Round 27 Won 42-10
4th September Warrington (A) SL 16 Round 26 Lost 12-39
27th August Leeds (N) Challenge Cup Final Won 28-18
19th August Bradford (H) SL 16 Round 25 Won 60-12
14th August Salford (H) SL16 Round 24 Won 52-18
6th August St Helens (N) Challenge Cup SF Won 18-12

Wigan 2011 League Home Record
Played 14: Won 11 and Lost 3 - 78.5% Win Rate.

Catalan Form Guide - Last Six Matches - Won 3 Lost 3

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
17th September Hull KR (H) SL Play Offs Won 56-06
11th September Salford (A) SL 16 Round 27 Won 44-18
3rd September Hull KR (H) SL 16 Round 26 Lost 28-30
20th August Warrington (H) SL 16 Round 25 Lost 12-25
12th August Hull FC (A) SL 16 Round 24 Lost 08-40
30th July Harlequins (H) SL 16 Round 23 Won 48-22

Catalan 2011 League Away from Home Record
Played 14: Won 8 and Lost 6 - 57.1% Win Rate.

Previous Super League Play Off Meetings

Date Type Opposition Report
20th Sept 2008 Eliminator Catalan 26 Wigan 50 Click Here

Ticket Details

Stand ConAdultsiors Concs/Juniors
West Stand Gold £22 £16
West Stand Blue £21 £15
East Stand Silver £20 £14
East Stand Red £19 £13
South Stand £18 £12
North Stand (Visitors) CLOSED CLOSED

Ticket Hotline: 0871 66 33 552
Click Here for Stadium Seating Map

UK TV Coverage

Live Coverage Sunday 4:55pm
Replay Sunday Midnight
Replay Monday 2:30pm

International TV Coverage

New Zealand LIVE Monday 4:55am Sky Sport 2 HD
Egypt Delay Sunday 9:00pm OSN Sports 2 -
Dubai Delay Sunday 11:00pm OSN Sports 2 -
Australia Delay Late Monday Midnight Channel Nine -

Radio Commentary

102.4 Wish FM - On Air from 4:50pm with full match commentary with Mark Wilson and Stuart Fielden.

BBC Radio Manchester (95.1FM) - On air from 2pm with Wigan v Catalan full match commentary following commentary on the Championship 1 play off between Keighley and Rochdale.

Weather Forecast

Chance of heavy rain showers.

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