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!