If Wigan win on Friday (and it is perhaps a big if) then I think
we should look back on the start to 2011 and be reasonably
pleased. Yes the manner of the defeat last Friday against
Warrington was disappointing but it had been coming.|
A win on
Friday makes all the difference, but if I asked you all prior to
Huddersfield away that (after we'd scraped past Hull at home, had both
Sam and Joel Tomkins suspended and lost Paul Deacon to injury)
we'd win two out of three facing Hudds and Leeds away and
Warrington at home, I reckon most fans would have been very
pleased with that.
It's all about bouncing back again for Michael Maguire's Wigan.
For all of the previous eight losses under him we've always
bounced straight back with a victory and to do that for a ninth
time would be massive.
I mean get past Leeds and the fixtures list begins to open up
for us. We have a run of matches which reads Catalan, Hull KR, St
Helens, Wakefield, Crusaders, Barrow, Harlequins, Hull KR again
and Catalan again.
The Saints clash certainly isn't a gimme but the other eight
games should all be won. Not saying they will be won but if
we play to our full potential they should be won. I mean six of
the eight league matches are against the current bottom four in
the table. We just need to make sure we don't waste that run with
defeat at Leeds.
So how to beat Leeds? Well for Wigan it is simple I think. Make
sure the defence is solid and up to it's usual standard and we'll
have enough in attack to get the victory. I'm convinced that the
current Leeds side can't compete to a high defensive standard.
They are conceding 10 points a match more than Wigan this year and
that is a lot of ground to make up.
Fair enough they did only concede six points to Wakefield last
week but I was listening the game on BBC Radio Leeds and trust me
that flattered them. Wakefield hammered them in the first half and
remarkably only scored one try.
Don't take my word for it. The
poster "Remarkable_Rhinos" on the Southstander.com message board
wrote "Wakefield were dire. 40 minutes of total dominance, 10
of those with a one man advantage, and they had 4 points to show
for it. Don't get me wrong, we did pretty well defending on some
instances, but most other teams (especially Wigan!) would've
finished that half with at least 20 points to
That's exactly as it sounded but it was easily
predictable that Leeds would get a bollocking at half time and
turn it round. Reading and hearing that makes me confident but I
think it's fair to say that under Brian Noble our defence wasn't
great yet somehow we consistently were able to produce one off
regular season displays to beat a top Leeds side.
I could rattle
off about six or seven instances we managed to do that and
certainly for all the away ones we would have gone to Headingley
hoping rather than expecting victory. So that is the fear, that
Leeds raise to their old top defensive standard in a one off.
Whether Brian McDermott can coach them to that remains to be
seen. I'm genuinely not convinced he can. They have yet to really
beat any top sides. They've won against Bradford, Hull, Salford
and Wakefield, all teams in the bottom half of the table and if
you watched the game against Bradford in Cardiff they were damn
lucky to get away with that one. When they've lost, they've not
just lost but been well beaten by Warrington, Harlequins and St
Helens because they were unable to defend well.
One thing is for
sure, if we end up in an offensive shootout, Leeds are still top
draw in that department. They have the third best attack in Super
League behind Warrington and Castleford.
It's looking like coach
Michael Maguire will ring the changes after the defeat to
Warrington. It's suggested that Josh Charnley and Stefan Marsh
will both be taken out of the fire with Joel Tomkins and Amos
Roberts replacing them in the three quarters. Sean O'Loughlin will
start at Stand Off with Brett Finch easing in off the bench. It'll
be interesting to see how that works. Is the plan when Finch comes
on to switch O'Loughlin back to loose or use Tommy Leuluai as
alternative hooker? I hope it's the latter!
If Charnley doesn't
play though, that leaves the worry of goal kicking. Wigan and
Leeds are the two worst sides in Super League for goal kick
success. Charnley wasn't doing too bad. He only missed 1 from 6
attempts for a 83.3% conversion rate, although off memory having
said that he did have most of those bang in front. Overall we have
a 66.6% conversion rate and if Sam Tomkins is kicking, I'm not
convinced he can convert off the touchline. Maybe Amos Roberts
will have a go?
However we do have the excuse of missing our
number 1 kicker Pat Richards and number two kicker Paul Deacon.
Leeds have no such excuse. Kevin Sinfield is their number 1 and
yet they are converting worse than Wigan. Sinfield has missed 14
of his 41 attempts at goal for a 65.8% conversion rate.
So goal kicking is my fear but I think we'll win this game off
the bench. I think we are just that bit stronger in reserve at the
moment and like I said if defence is strong enough, I think we'll
have enough to edge home. I expect a very tight game though.