Saints v Wigan Warriors – Round 22 Match preview
The Saints continued their impressive form with a crushing 40-12 defeat of 3rd place Hull at the KCOM Stadium last Friday and now face derby rivals Wigan in the 1st non televised derby since 1995. If you still haven’t got a ticket for this one and want to attend, I would suggest you contact Saints now as the latest call is that there are 120 tickets remaining in the family stand, the rest is sold out.
Last game review
After the brutal and bruising clash at Warrington a week earlier, many would’ve forgiven Saints if they had struggled at Hull, but they delivered a very good victory at what can be a difficult place to go. I’ve only seen the highlights of the game so won’t comment too much on this one, but some of the tries we scored were excellent and our deadly left-hand side had a field day as opposed to the right hand side which destroyed Hull on Easter Monday. Saints have now scored 102 points in two games against Hull this season, which tells you the gulf in class between us and the chasers currently.
After stuttering in attack against Warrington, it looked like we got into our flow again against Hull, with Coote and Lomax running the show and causing Hull problems. What was also noticeable was the improvement in Mark Percival’s form and he had a big impact on the left-hand side putting Grace in for a couple and putting Coote in for another.
Our derby rivals have had a poor season by their standards. They started the season very slowly and were in a relegation battle with Leeds, Hull KR and London at one point. Many Wigan fans had given up after their defeat to Catalans at the Nou Camp, but since then they have won five out of six and put themselves into the top five, where they currently lie in fourth spot.
Now it is worth bringing some context to those results as they have beaten the teams at the bottom of the table apart from Salford – Leeds, Hull KR twice, Huddersfield, so they do face much bigger challenges than that and its difficult to say how good those results are until they face some of the better sides, but they were under a lot of pressure at one stage, low on confidence and the cries of ‘Lam out’ were growing, so their turnaround has been fairly dramatic. Their form has improved since Liam Farrell returned to the side and that is no coincidence. He shores up their defence, brings a calming influence to their team and he can be a threat with the ball especially on the left hand side of the field.
This game is a more interesting game now than it looked three or four weeks ago, and whilst Saints will still be favourites, Wigan will be quietly confident they can get a result and continue their good run on Friday. If they did win, that would really make a statement that they’re not giving up their crown without a fight.
Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Morgan Knowles, Kyle Amor, Dom Peyroux, Adam Swift, Matty Lees, Jack Ashworth, Aaron Smith, James Bentley, Lachlan Coote.
Joe Bullock, Joe Burgess, Liam Byrne, Tony Clubb, Liam Farrell, Oliver Gildart, Chris Hankinson, Zak Hardaker, Willie Isa, Tommy Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Ollie Partington, Sam Powell, Jarrod Sammut, Dan Sarginson, Jake Shorrocks, Morgan Smithies, George Williams
Joseph Paulo is ruled out of this game for Saints, whilst James Roby and Aaron Smith return to the 19 man squad. Holbrook has confirmed that a decision will be made on Roby on Thursday and if he pulls through that session OK he will play on Friday. If he doesn’t play, Aaron Smith will most likely step in at hooker instead. As Paolo is ruled out, Bentley will most likely come off the bench and play in the back row. Swift and either Roby or Smith will miss out you’d imagine from the 19 named.
Head to Head
Last 6 games – Saints 4 wins, Wigan 2 wins.
Last meeting – Wigan 10 – 36 St Helens, DW Stadium, Att. 22,050.
James Roby needs one appearance to reach 400 (Super League) whilst Joe Burgess needs one try to reach 100 for Wigan.
Our recent record against Wigan is very strong given the strength of these sides and Saints have won both meetings so far this season, the last being a very comfortable Good Friday win. Wigan’s last victory against us was last season in the Super 8’s, a 30-10 victory at the Totally Wicked Stadium. They do like travelling to us these days, and always seem to pick up a win against us at some point so Saints will need to be very wary of the threat Wigan pose.
Lachlan Coote v Zak Hardaker – Both of these full backs have been in good form this year, Hardaker has arguably been Wigan’s best player, whilst Coote has been a revelation since replacing the outgoing Ben Barba. The biggest compliment you could pay him is that we don’t miss Barba and some may argue that we’re a better side with Coote. That’s debatable, but we certainly look a more balanced side as we seem to probe more attacking moves to the right-hand side and defensively, there is no doubt Coote is much stronger. Hardaker had a tough task replacing Tomkins, and whilst there’s no doubt they miss the creativity and link play Tomkins brought, Hardaker offers a different running threat and is as safe as any full back under high kicks. This should be a great battle and both teams will be looking to their full backs for a bit of magic.
Liam Farrell v Dom Peyroux – I’ve gone for the big back rowers as the next battle. Both players are very highly rated by their own fans and probably under rated by opposition fans. They both bring similar attributes; strong defence, a good running game and a good work ethic. Taia is a big loss for Saints, but Peyroux does a fantastic job for us on that right hand side. It’s no coincidence last season that our form tailed off when Peyroux was injured, his defence especially is very good.
Saints will be favourites for this one and the major reason for that is the strength of the packs. Wigan’s front row especially just isn’t a match for this powerful Saints pack and if they allow Walmsley and Thompson to get on top, a fresh James Roby could open up them up through the middle. Wigan’s threat is out wide and they will try to take the game to the fringes away from the middle man when they can, where the likes of Farrell, Gildart, Williams and Burgess can cause problems. Wigan will fight hard following their revival in form, but Saints are too strong currently and I predict Saints by 14.