Cup holders Wigan make their first trip to Featherstone in 18
years on Friday Night looking to make the Quarter Finals of the
Challenge Cup for the sixth season in a row.|
It was the opening
day of the last full winter season (1994-1995) that Wigan last
went to Post Office Road with tries from Frano Botica (2), Paul
Atcheson, Denis Betts, Jason Robinson and Kelvin Skerrett helping
Wigan to a 36-24 win.
It was earlier in that year that Wigan last met Featherstone in
the Challenge Cup also. Wigan won the tie 32-14, but the game is
more remembered for the infamous Kelvin Skerrett "Superman
Leap" over a brawl and punched referee Stuart Cummings in the
face during the process. Our Andy Platt and Rovers Steve Molloy
were also sent off in the same incident.
Overall Wigan have won 5 of the 6 Challenge Cup Ties between
the sides, but perhaps Rovers can clutch an omen out of their one
and only victory. It came sixty years ago back in 1952. The omen
is that Wigan were cup holders going into that cup campaign as
well but Featherstone humbled them 14-11 in a Quarter Final at
Post Office Road.
"Wigan's Surprising Failure" reported the Guardian newspaper
sixty years ago but I think it's fair to say it would be an even
bigger shock if Featherstone went on to repeat that dose this time
Whilst it was a very deserved and credible victory that Rovers
achieved over Castleford in the last round, their is a hell of
difference between playing that side who were out of form and
meeting Wigan who are scoring almost 36 points per match this
Wigan are also not looking like they are falling into the trap
seen at Widnes earlier this season either by playing a weakened
team. It looks like coach Shaun Wane will stick with the side that
won at Hull except for Anthony Gelling coming in to replace the
injured Pat Richards and Lee Mossop returning also.
So do Featherstone have a chance? Well the weather may help
them out immensely. The recent heavy rain looks like it might turn
the ground into a mudbath. The pitch looked pretty bad for the
Castleford game and the weather has been pretty bad this week, and
doesn't look like it'll improve much. That will obviously slow
down Wigan's backs but our pack really is our strong point this
year. In my view we controlled top Super League sides like Leeds,
Catalan, Warrington (despite the loss) and St Helens with our
forwards and so we should be able to do so easily here.
The other leveller could be goal kicking. The absence of Pat
means Josh Charnley will be back on goal kicking and I really
don't know what to expect from him. He has proven he could
potentially be a quality kicker but hasn't found the consistency
of it so far. If he has a bad day then Featherstone might get
opportunities by scoring in sixes rather than fours, but I'd still
expect Wigan to be too strong.
Generally though these cup ties away from home are not easy.
Lest we forget fighting hard to win 32-20 at Barrow in 2009 or
34-24 at Widnes in 2007. Then again both those efforts were during
the Brian Noble era when our season only really began in September
and lasted about three weeks till we exited the play offs.
Rovers do have one or two players with notable Super League
experience - the ginger haired full back Ian Hardman is easily
recognisable from his days at St Helens and Hull KR whilst winger
Tommy Saxton had spells at Castleford and Hull FC - but generally
they seem to have a team of cast offs from Super League academy
systems. Perhaps they will all have a point to prove though? This
is a shop window for them to get back to the top flight?
Either way, for me Wigan will have to put in a bad show to lose
this one and that just doesn't really happen anymore. The post
Wembley trip to Warrington last year aside, it's been a long time
since I've come away from a Wigan game and thought....hmm we stunk
there and never looked like winning. Probably the 48-16 loss at
Huddersfield in late 2009 was the last time. We are a different
kettle of fish now.
Don't get wrong I think this will be a tough cup tie. We will
be forced to battle for victory, probably in heavy weather, but we
should have far too much class in the end for Featherstone to