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Play Off Match Preview: St Helens (A) -1st October 2011 at Stobart Stadium, Widnes
Posted by Bilko on September 29 2011 - 15:06

St Helens (3rd) v Wigan (2nd) - Engage Super League XVI Play Off Semi Final.
Saturday 1st October 2011. Kick Off 6:00pm at Stobart Stadium, Widnes.

Match Preview

So, here we go - Wigan v St Helens for the sixth time this season and for the second time in a Semi Final. Meeting so often certainly took the gloss off the derby two weeks ago but following a far better performance against Catalan last week, I can't see too many Wigan fans not being up for this one come Saturday 6pm.

Normally we are getting to October and expecting to get the flippers out for wet weather rugby but a glance out the window see's blue skies and sunshine - what the hell is going on?

Anyway - first a look back on last week. Huddersfield v Leeds ended up a decent game I suppose but Wigan 44 Catalan 0 was another dire contest. In fairness nil was very harsh on the French but how can a side go from winning 56-6 one week to losing 44-0?

The poor attendance, and poor contest, added fuel to the fire that the top 8 system hasn't worked. I think Brian Carney has written a very good blog on the subject. His key comment for me is him saying that "the season is supposed to be building to a Grand Final crescendo but that does not seem to be the case. It needs to be investigated.". Well I wrote similar myself in last weeks preview. That is the key problem with this current system. I'd rather them do a straight forward top 8 quarter finals, semi finals then final than fanny about with second chance games, and I say that even though Wigan have been the main beneficiaries of second chances in the past two years.

Thankfully though Wigan, for the second year in a row, took their "second chance" - no other side has managed to do it so far. I think playing this semi final away from the DW suits us as well. We've done well at the DW this season, after a dodgy start, but I just feel that playing the match at Widnes (technically a neutral venue) suits us massively. In the past Knowsley Road has been huge to Saints for big games like this. Widnes definetly doesn't provide them with that same psychological advantage.

So what's the key to winning the match? Quite simple for me. The first twenty minutes is crucial. We need to win the opening battle! Why? Well stats clearly show that it is damn hard to chase down games in the play offs.

In 22 play off games since we switched top a top 8 system, 17 have been won by the team that claimed the games first points. Also, in all those 22 games, only once has a side overturned a double digit deficit. That was Leeds in the Qualifier at Wigan last season, when we bombed a 14-0 lead.

Now bare in mind that double digit leads have been built up 19 times! So the fact 18 of those leads resulted in wins, proves my point really about it being hard to chase the game in the play offs. Granted, we did have that famous comeback at Bradford five seasons ago, but it really is a rare thing at this time of the season, and that's why a big start is imperative!

We saw that to our cost at the DW a fortnight back. We made a poor start, Saints built a 14-0 lead, but despite a good attempt, it was too much to claw back. In fact that 14-0 Saints lead is amazingly the worst lead that a side has been able to build before the losing side has scored in the play offs so far this year. That shows how one sided the post season has been!

If we play with the intensity of last week, I have to say I am confident. Lee Mossop being back would be a huge boost and I hope that proves to be the case. Saints are possibly recalling Leon Pryce. Not sure that makes any odds to us. He clearly wasn't fit in the cup semi final. I'm not sure Saints need to be so desperate to recall a player that has only made 7 appearances all season. They've done pretty well without him, so why bring him back now?

We will also need to repeat the kicking game of last week. Brett Finch was awesome in that department when we went to Widnes in June and he was well supported by the likes of Sam Tomkins and Sean O'Loughlin against Catalan. If we can keep turning Saints around and forcing them to build attacks from their own try line - they'll struggle! We didn't do that at all in the game at the DW and we must learn the lessons from that!

Nothing much else to say really. It should be a close contest and it could come down to a bit of luck. I certainly will be very surprised if we get run over like in the last game. Bring it on!

19 Man Squads

IN:l Eamon O'Carroll
OUT:l Darrell Goulding
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, Eamon O'Carroll, Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell, Chris Tuson, Josh Charnley.

St Helens
IN:l Leon Pryce, Gary Wheeler
OUT:l Tom Armstrong, Scott Hale
Full 19: Paul Wellens, Michael Shenton, Sia Soliola, Francis Meli, Leon Pryce, James Roby, James Graham, Tony Puletua, Jon Wilkin, Scott Moore, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Paul Clough, Gary Wheeler, Matty Ashurst, Andrew Dixon, Jonny Lomax, Jamie Foster, Lee Gaskell, Tom Makinson.

Match Referee

Phil Bentham (Warrington) - Age 40
First Pro Game: Sheffield 34 London Skolars 6 - 22nd February 2004
First Super League Game: Wakefield 30 Hull 32 - 11th September 2005
First Wigan Game: Wigan 36 Huddersfield 20 - 24th February 2006
Finals Officiated: 2011 Challenge Cup Final - Wigan 28 Leeds 24

Wigan's Record when this referee is appointed

Wigan have Won 11, Drawn 1 and Lost 16 from 28 appointments.
This Season: Won 4, Drawn 1 and Lost 1 from 6 appointments.

Video Referee

Ben Thaler

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
3rd St Helens 27 17 3 7 782 515 +267 37

Super League Era Head to Head Record including Play Offs

Overall Played 56 Wigan 27 Wins St Helens 25 Wins 4 Draws
At St Helens Played 22 Wigan 9 Wins St Helens 11 Wins 2 Draws
SL Play Offs Played 9 Wigan 4 Wins St Helens 5 Wins 0 Draws
SL PO at St Helens Played 2 Wigan 0 Wins St Helens 2 Wins 0 Draws

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

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
25th September Catalan (H) SL Play Offs Won 44-00
18th September St Helens (H) SL 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

Wigan 2011 League Away from Home Record
Played 14: Won 9, Drawn 3, Lost 2 - 75% Success Rate.

St Helens Form Guide - Last Six Matches - Won 4 Lost 2

Date Opposition Competition Result Score
18th September Wigan (A) SL Play Offs Won 26-18
10th September Harlequins (A) SL 16 Round 27 Won 34-16
2nd September Salford (H) SL 16 Round 26 Won 31-06
21st August Hull KR (A) SL 16 Round 25 Lost 22-24
12th August Huddersfield (H) SL 16 Round 24 Won 19-06
6th August Wigan (N) Challenge Cup SF Lost 12-18

St Helens 2011 League Home Record
Played 13: Won 10 and Lost 3 - 76.9% Success Rate.

Previous Super League Play Off Meetings

Date Type Opposition Report
30th Sept 2000 Qualifier Wigan 16 St Helens 57 Click Here
14th Oct 2000 Grand Final Wigan 16 St Helens 29 Click Here
6th Oct 2001 Eliminator Wigan 44 St Helens 10 Click Here
11th Oct 2002 Eliminator St Helens 24 Wigan 08 Click Here
3rd Oct 2003 Eliminator Wigan 40 St Helens 24 Click Here
25th Sept 2004 Eliminator Wigan 18 St Helens 12 Click Here
3rd Oct 2009 Semi Final St Helens 14 Wigan 10 Click Here
2nd Oct 2010 Grand Final Wigan 22 St Helens 10 Click Here
18th Sept 2011 Qualifier Wigan 18 St Helens 26 Click Here

Ticket Details

Tickets in Wigan areas for this game have now SOLD OUT. Tickets can still be bought from St Helens.

UK TV Coverage

Live Coverage Saturday 5:30pm
Replay Saturday 10:00pm
Replay Sunday 10:00am
Replay Monday 3:00pm

International TV Coverage

New Zealand Delay Sunday 9:00am Sky Sport 2 HD
Egypt LIVE Saturday 6:30pm OSN Sports 3 -
Dubai LIVE Saturday 8:30pm OSN Sports 4 -

Radio Commentary

102.4 Wish FM - Build up from about 5pm after the Latics Match Commentary has concluded. Commentary on this derby will be done by Wish FM's St Helens commentator Chris Price.

BBC Commentaries will be available nationally on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (DAB Digital) and locally from 6pm on BBC Manchester (95.1FM) and at the venue on BBC Radio Merseyside (1485mw/DAB).

Weather Forecast

Dry and Mild.

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