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Under 20s Grand Final Match Preview
Posted by Bilko on September 28 2011 - 14:27

Wigan (1st) v Warrington (2nd) -  Under 20s Valvoline Cup Grand Final.
Saturday 1st October. Kick Off 1:00pm at Leigh Sports Village,

So Saturday see's the Under 20s Grand Final taking place at Leigh Sports Village on the other side of Wigan. This will be our fourth final in a row at this level, having beaten St Helens in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

In fact this will be Wigan's 10th Academy Level Grand Final of the modern era (by modern era I mean since I started doing this website back in the 2002 season). 10 academy finals in 10 seasons is a phenomenal achievement that not only the club should be proud of, but also all the local amateur sides in this town and beyond as well.

Six of those previous finals have been won with victories in 2002 (Under 17s), 2003 (Under 21s) and 2005 (Under 18s), adding to the three recent Under 20s finals I mentioned.

In all that time we have an impressive list of players who played in one of these finals for us, and then gone on to play at least once in our first team. This list includes: Harrison Hansen, Chris Melling, Kevin Brown, Bob Beswick, Dave Allen, Bryn Hargreaves, Paul Prescott, Desi Williams, Shaun Briscoe, Liam Colbon, James Coyle, Mark Roberts, Chris Ashton, Sean Gleeson, Lee Jewitt, Joel Tomkins, Thomas Coyle, Mike McIlorum, Sam Tomkins, Lee Mossop, Eamon O'Carroll, Shaun Ainscough, Darrell Goulding, Chris Tuson, Ben Davies, Jonny Walker, Liam Farrell, Josh Charnley, Stefan Marsh and Jack Hughes.

That's 30 players and many others have gone on to play for other clubs at first team level. Granted some have had more success than others in our first team, but who knows what future first team stars will be turning out this weekend at Leigh.

Warrington meanwhile will be playing in their first academy final in that same time span. They decided to invest heavily in youth about three or four years back and that investment is now beginning to show reward. They actually topped the Under 20s table last year but fell short in the play offs, to first St Helens, then Wigan. So to reach the Grand Final this time is a big step for them.

Wigan have lost four of the last five meetings against Warrington at this level, including a 29-12 defeat at Halliwell Jones Stadium three weeks ago. I'm not sure you can read much into that last loss though because Wigan had already secured first place in the table, so nothing really was riding on the game.

The other meeting this year was way back in March when Warrington won 28-24 at Orrell. That game went right down to the wire (pardon the pun) with Wigan clawing back from 26-14 down to make Warrington kick a penalty goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to ensure the result.

The two sides named for the final should be interesting. Wigan have been able to add the experience of Joe Mellor, Dom Crosby, Logan Tomkins and Ben Davies to their squad since that clash at Halliwell Jones Stadium earlier in the month.

Warrington have not really had that kind of luxury but, using rules that allow for three players over age 20 to be used per side, they have played 31 year old ex Warrior Mick Higham in their two play off matches to date on top of solo appearances for Chris Riley and Tyrone McCarthy. Ben Davies is the only over-age player Wigan have used in their two play off games - Crosby, Mellor and Logan Tomkins still qualify for the Under 20s by right.

On the books at Warrington is Bobbie Goulding's son, who is also called Bobbie. He is expected to start for them at Scrum Half. Also, their second rower Danny Bridge who could easily have been lining up in Wigan colours on Saturday. Up until 26th July this year he was on the books at Wigan but decided to leave so he could team up at Warrington with his brother Chris. The irony is that he goes into this final having played 13 games for our Under 20s and just five for Warrington - so I wonder if he will receive a winners medal whatever the result on Saturday?

It's hard to predict who will win because you can't judge the opposition really at this level because you rarely see them play. One thing I will say is that I think, on the evidence of our performance last week, they'll will have to have a huge game in the forwards because we totally dominated Wakefield in that department. The forward battle will possibly decide the result. Previous experience of these finals could count a hell of a lot for Wigan as well.

You'd think the four recently recalled Wigan players would give us a massive edge but it's worth noting that they all played when Warrington won at Orrell in March. However on that day Warrington had added the over aged Mike Cooper and Lee Mitchell in their pack. They might not have that luxury this time? Either way it should be a cracking final. Just like at first team level, they have been the two stand out sides all year and quality of the final should reflect that. Well worth a fiver of your money before heading on to Widnes later!

Wigan Under 20s - Meet the Players

Matty Russell Age: 18 Position: Full Back 2011 U20s Apps: 21 Tries: 13
Matty can play at either Full Back or Wing but he has spent the majority of this season in the full back birth following the departure of Josh Veivers at the end of last season. A very nippy player who has pace to burn. This will be his third academy final at Wigan having played in both the 2009 Under 18s and 2010 Under 20s Finals.
Ryan King Age: 19 Position: Winger 2011 U20s Apps: 21 Tries: 14
Another pacey danger man but he's had a quiet second half to this season. 11 of his 14 tries this season came in the first 9 matches of the campaign. Since mid May he has contributed just 3 tries in 11 matches. This will be Ryan's first Under 20s level Grand Final, however he did play in the 2009 Under 18s Grand Final defeat to Wakefield.
Stefan Marsh Age: 21 Position: Centre 2011 U20s Apps: 10 Tries: 8
Stefan turned 21 earlier this month but still qualifies for the Under 20s by right because he turned 21 three days after the 31st August cut off point they use. He has made 12 appearances for the first team (seven this season) but has yet to establish himself as a regular. This will be his third Under 20s level Grand Final, having played in the 2009 and 2010 victories over St Helens.
Jack Murphy Age: 19 Position: Centre/Winger 2011 U20s Apps: 21 Tries: 15
Jack lacks the pace that Matty Russell and Ryan King possess but he is this season's top Wigan try scorer at this level. He has also been the regular goal kicker. I'd suggest he's more of a solid than sparkling player.

Edit: "Taylor000" has tweeted me to saying "How can (Jack Murphy) not be sparkling but score more tries than anyone else? surely thats a wingers job u prick!". He reckons I've criticised him in this summarisation so to balance here's his opinion - "Good player, deserves more credit than I KNOW he gets and as good as kingy, the tries speak for themselves."

Jayden Sandford Age: 19 Position: Winger 2011 U20s Apps: 10 Tries: 2
Not been a regular at this level this season. Whether he gets the nod to play in this final will remain to be seen.
Joe Mellor Age: 20 Position: Stand Off 2011 U20s Apps: 8 Tries: 5
I've no doubt that Joe would have made some first team appearances by now had he not suffered a broken knee cap in 2010 pre season training. It ruled him out of most of that season, although he did return very late in the year to play in his second Under 20s Grand Final success. He made the first tean bench when Wigan travelled to Huddersfield in March but never got onto the field to make his debut. He's spent most of the year on loan at first Harlequins then Widnes but is available to play in this final with Widnes' season being over.
Sam Powell Age: 19 Position: Scrum Half 2011 U20s Apps: 20 Tries: 9
Sam will be chomping at the bit to play in this Grand Final after missing out on last season's success over St Helens despite having played 19 matches during the regular season. Joe Mellor's broken knee cap probably pushed Sam into the Under 20s a year ahead of schedule but he's coped well, as highlighted by him receiving the Riversiders Supporters Club Under 20s Player of the Year Award.
Scott Leatherbarrow Age: 20 Position: Half Back 2011 U20s Apps: 12 Tries: 3
Scott had previously played for Warrington before being released in 2010. He has been playing for the Under 20s here this season on a "pay as you play" arrangement after being signed as cover when Joe Mellor went on dual-reg to Widnes this season. This will probably be his last game in a Wigan shirt. Despite being a half back by trade, he came off the bench to cover at Centre last week and also kicked 5 of the goals in the victory over Wakefield.
Dom Crosby Age: 20 Position: Prop Forward 2011 U20s Apps: 8 Tries: 3
Returned last week after the competition of his dual-registration loan at Widnes.  Personally I think he should have made the step up to first team at least a couple of times during this season. He's a good hard working lad who never takes a backward step. He has a proud fans as well. "North East Glenys" tells me she feels proud like a mother watching him progress. Adding that "When Dom is on the pitch, angels get their wings."
Ben Davies Age: 22 Position: Prop Forward 2011 U20s Apps: 8 Tries: 5
I made the point in my Under 20s report for last week - he is 22, has played in three of these Under 20s Grand Finals already and is moving on to Widnes next season. Yes I realise the rules allow for three over age 20 players per team, but what exactly is the point of playing him in this? What do we gain from it?
Greg Burke Age: 18 Position: Prop Forward 2011 U20s Apps: 14 Tries: 2
One of my favourite players in the academy ranks. I think he's an excellent prospect, perhaps highlighted by him winning the Riversiders Supporters Club Under 18s Player of the Year award. He has jumped between Under 20s and 18s levels during the season but he always gives his all.
Tom Spencer Age: 19 Position: Prop Forward 2011 U20s Apps: 21 Tries: 6
Probably my player of the year for the Under 20s. He's stepped up to lead the pack during Dom Crosby's time at Widnes, having toured South Africa with the BARLA Young Great Britain Lions tour last season. He reverted to the bench for the semi final last week, which just adds to the strength of our pack because he has been starting prop for 15 of his 21 appearances.
Logan Tomkins Age: 19 Position: Hooker 2011 U20s Apps: 11 Tries: 3
Also returned last week after the competition of his dual-registration loan at Widnes.  I still hold the personal opinion that Liam Carberry is a better prospect but they both have different styles. Logan is more of a distribution hooker, looking to find the pass left or right.....
Liam Carberry Age: 18 Position: Hooker 2011 U20s Apps: 13 Tries: 7
.....whilst Carberry is more you direct scooting type hooker. He is always a threat close to the try line, trying to claim Keiron Cunningham style barge over tries.
Jack Hughes Age: 19 Position: Second Row 2011 U20s Apps: 13 Tries: 5
Jack has had a busy with with 13 Under 20s appearances being added to by two first team appearances here at Wigan and a short dual-registration spell at the farcically run Barrow club. He was on the bench for the Grand Final win over St Helens at this level last season.
Jamie Acton Age: 19 Position: Second Row/Centre 2011 U20s Apps: 21 Tries: 5
A big strong cockney lad who Wigan signed ahead of this season from Hemel Stags. Acton had only played the mud wrestling code until age 16 but not being a goal kicker it obviously wasn't the sport for him. He moved to Hemel for two years before being spotted by a Wigan scout and he quickly agreed to join us here, despite the fact he had a child and partner down south. Still a raw talent for me but he has shown plenty of potential playing first at centre and then in the back row during the second half of the season.
Kieron Harrison Age: 19 Position: Loose Forward 2011 U20s Apps: 21 Tries: 0
He's made the loose forward birth his own this season but with Connor Farrell progressing well in the same position for the Under 18s, I'm not convinced he has the potential to progress any further here. Don't get me wrong he is a good solid worker but I'm not sure theirs enough spark for a club the standard of Wigan. 0 tries in 21 appearances perhaps say's a lot? Go and prove me wrong and score in the final!
Fringe Players
Other players on the fringes of selection include Blake Mahovic (centre), Matty Crow (centre/second row), Drew Johnson (Prop Forward) and Craig Andrews (Prop Forward). They have all been semi-regulars in the Under 20s this year but generally more off the bench than in the starting line up.

Match Referee

Tom Crashley (Wakefield)

Final Valvoline Cup League Positions

  Team P W D L F A Diff Pts
1st Wigan Under 20s 20 17 0 3 755 427 +328 34
2nd Warrington Under 20s 20 16 0 4 781 436 +345 32

Wigan Under 20s Form Guide - Last Six Matches - Won 4 Lost 2

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
25th Sept Wakefield (H) Play Off Semi Final Won 56-06
10th Sept Wakefield (H) Play Off Qualifier Won 30-20
4th Sept Warrington (A) League Game Lost 12-29
12th Aug Salford (H) League Game Won 70-00
6th Aug Leeds (H) League Game Won 24-22
30th July Hull FC (A) League Game Lost 26-28

Warrington Under 20s Form Guide - Last Six Matches - Won 5 Lost 1

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
24th Sept Castleford (H) Play Off Semi Final Won 38-18
10th Sept Hull FC (H) Play Off Qualifier Won 30-14
4th Sept Wigan (H) League Game Won 29-12
13th Aug Wakefield (H) League Game Won 48-24
6th Aug Castleford (H) League Game Won 42-36
31st July Bradford (H) League Game Lost 12-34

Ticket Information

Stand ConAdultsiors Over 60/Under 16
West Stand £5 £3

Note: Enter the ground via turnstiles 23 and 24 only. These turnstiles are located between the Legends Bar and Main Reception. Supporters are advised to park on car parks 8, 9 and 10.

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