Wigan round 19 preview Phil Jones 28th October 2020 2020 Season, 2020 Season Previews A young Saints side put in a brave effort as we lost out narrowly 12-10 against a strong Salford side on Monday night. Saints gave debuts to five youngsters in Tom Nisbet, Ben Davies Nico Rizelli, Matty Foster and Jake Wingfield. Several squad players and other youngsters with limited experience also played with just regulars James Graham & Alex Walmsley featuring in the 17. We started the game very well, racing into an early 10-0 lead with an early Josh Eaves try following great work from Dom Peyroux and two goals from Lewis Dodd. We controlled the game for most of the first half but the turning point was just before half time when the excellent Dom Peyroux dropped the ball 20m from our line trying to play the ball quickly and Pauli Pauli was able to score a few plays later, a minute before half time. I feel if we’d have gone in at 10-0, we’d have won the game, but the Salford try gave them a chance and a bit of a lifeline following a poor opening 40. The 2nd half we were on the back foot for large parts of the game but defensively we were very good. It took a good handling move from Salford 5 minutes to go to break the resistance and hearts of the young Saints side, as Kristian Inu went over in the corner and landed the crucial conversion. Tom Nisbet will be kicking himself for dropping the ball in the act of scoring at 10-6 and Josh Simm also missed a really good chance on the hooter when he should’ve passed inside to setup an almost certain score, but it would be unfair to hold this against them, they were mistakes from inexperienced players who will get better with time. There were some strong performers on Monday with eight players making over 100 metres – Nisbet 125, Davies 128, Rizzelli 163, Walmsley 175, Paolo 154, Costello 116, Simm 135 and Graham 110 metres. Peyroux topped the tackle count with 41, Wingfield with an impressive 39, Paolo 39, Dodd 38 and Batchelor with 36. In other news two more games have been called off this week and there are talks that the season could end early with a restructure of the Play Offs. A top 5 system starting next week makes sense to me. Saints v Wigan face off in a shoot out for top spot and then the other 3 below them make up the five. It was the structure we had initially before the season started in January, so wouldn’t be completely ridiculous to go back to it. Our Opponents We take on a Wigan side, who currently lie 2nd in the table. Wigan were impressive in their last match against Salford last Friday, as they strolled to a 58-12 victory in a one-way hammering. Bevan French was the standout performer as he bagged a hat trick of tries, all excellent individual efforts. It was arguably Wigan’s most dominant display of the year, although Salford offered little resistance following their efforts in the cup final the week before. One thing Wigan have probably lacked this year is size and grunt up front, but the signing of Brad Singleton helps to plug that gap slightly as he has put in some solid displays since signing mid-season. There’s no doubt Wigan have lots of attacking weapons with the likes of French, Hastings, Powell, Farrell, Gildart and Hardaker but their problem has been consistency and ability to perform in the big games. This will be the acid test for Wigan. They have lost their last five against Saints and have been convincingly outplayed every time, so they will be looking to put in an 80 minute performance against us this time round. 21 Man Squads St Helens Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, James Roby, Zeb Taia, Dom Peyroux, LMS, Morgan Knowles, Matty Lees, Kyle Amor, Joseph Paolo, James Bentley, Jack Welsby, Josh Eaves, Josh Simm, Lewis Dodd, Jake Wingfield, James Graham. Wigan Warriors Zak Hardaker, Chris Hankinson, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess, Bevan French, Tommy Leuluai, Tony Clubb, Sam Powell, George Burgess, Willie Isa, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Joe Greenwood, Morgan Smithies, Oliver Partington, Joe Bullock, Liam Byrne, Jake Bibby, Harry Smith, Jackson Hastings, Brad Singleton Saints rested the majority of their stars for the Salford game so will go into the game as fresh as Wigan. Alex Walmsley is suspended for Friday’s game and will miss out. Dom Peyroux, Jack Welsby, Joseph Paolo, Josh Eaves, Lewis Dodd, Jake Wingfield and James Graham who all played in Monday’s match have all been named in the squad so at least three of them will play again this Friday. Referee – Chris Kendall Kick Off – Friday 30th October, 7.45pm Kick Off Venue – Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens Weather Forecast It is likely to be cold and wet throughout the day in a typical British October day, so the kicking game and retaining possession will be vitally important in this one. Head to Head Last 6 games – Saints 5 wins, Wigan 1 win. Last meeting – Wigan Warriors 0 – 42 St Helens, AJ Bell Stadium. The derby games are usually very even and close battles but the last four in particular have been very one sided in Saints favour. You have to go back to September 2018 since Wigan’s last victory against Saints following a 30-10 victory at the Totally Wicked Stadium. The last encounter Wigan played a near reserve team as Saints strolled to a comfortable 42-0 victory but both teams are fairly full strength this team round, so you’d imagine it will be much closer as bot sides fight it out for top spot. Key Battles Lachlan Coote v Bevan French – Two of the in form players in Super League go head to head this Friday in a great clash of the full backs. Coote links the play together and his combination with Lomax and the three quarters is crucial to our attack. French is a more individual player who is excellent given any space and is very dangerous on kick returns. Saints need either keep the ball away from him as much as possible on kicks or close him down on kick returns so he doesn’t have space to run into. James Roby v Sam Powell – Roby is in sensational form and will once again be the talisman for Saints. The loss of Walmsley is a blow though and usually he is able to profit off quick play the balls from Walmsley and make yards up the middle. We will be relying on the other forards this week to give Roby the space he needs. Powell is a consistent performer for Wigan. He’s nowhere near the class of Rob but he gets them ticking from dummy half and he’s one of the 1st names on Wigan’s team sheet. Prediction This game suddenly becomes vitally important in the race for top spot. If Saints win, you would imagine they will go on to finish top whilst a Wigan win would put them top and give them the ascendency in the race for top. Wigan have a lot of individual threats we need to be wary of – in particular the in-form Bevan French. It’s crucial we don’t give him space on his kick returns and allow him the time and space that Salford allowed him. One area Saints will look to get on top is in the pack and if Saints do that I don’t think Wigan can match us. Saints by 10.