Could The Champions Slip Out Of The Four?
Hope springs eternal. Joking aside the prospect of Shaun Wane’s side ending the weekend outside of a semi-final spot is a very real one. After opening the season with four wins in a row Wigan have failed to beat both Huddersfield and Hull FC at home and go into this weekend’s clash with Leeds Rhinos at Headingley knowing that defeat coupled with a Salford win over Saints would leave them a point behind the Red Devils in fifth.
Though Saints are a reasonable chance to do the old enemy a favour against the Red Devils (thinking about it, maybe we don’t want Wigan out of the top four this week…) a defeat for Wigan at Leeds is not all that unlikely, considering not only their own recent form and their debilitating injury list but also in view of the Rhinos’ recent improvement. Brian McDermott’s side have won their last three in Super League, seemingly galvanised by the humiliating 66-10 spanking they took against Castleford Tigers on March 2. Both Catalans Dragons and Wakefield Trinity left Headingley with nothing in recent weeks while last week’s 28-12 victory over Huddersfield saw Leeds climb to the almost forgotten heights of third in the table.
The list of absentees for Wigan is still fairly lengthy, although all of Liam Farrell, Oliver Gildart and Ryan Sutton have returned to the initial 19-man selection after injury. Yet still without the likes of Sam Tomkins, Sean O’Loughlin, John Bateman and Michael McIlorum the Warriors will again rely on youth as they look to get the better of the 2015 treble winners.
Leigh To Pile The Misery On Widnes
It was another chastening day at the office for Dennis Betts’ Widnes Vikings last weekend as they were thrashed 46-10 by Salford at the Select Security Stadium, that following on from a 34-0 loss to Castleford in their previous home outing. They may relish the opportunity to get away from playing in front of their own fans then this week, although the 32-12 defeat they suffered at Hull FC in their last away fixture suggests otherwise. This week they visit a Leigh Centurions side which has more than held its own on its return to Super League, suffering only one defeat at home so far when Leeds Rhinos prevailed 17-14 in February.
The Vikings have only won one point from a draw in Perpignan with Catalans Dragons so far in 2017, but may take comfort from the fact that Leigh have missed more tackles defensively than any other Super League side so far. Yet this has not translated to conceding the most points, an honour currently held by the Giants, while Widnes are one of six sides who have shipped in more points than Neil Jukes’ side. The Vikings have also gained fewer metres than anyone else with the lowest average gain and, along with Warrington, scored the fewest points of all sides so far. They are a side in Championship form which is being asked to go the home of a side which has spent the last few years routinely dismissing Championship opposition on home soil. It doesn’t look good for Vikings fans.
The only thing keeping Widnes off the bottom of Super League are the continuing traumas being experienced by Warrington. That trend may continue as the Wolves face a difficult clash with Hull FC this week, but fears are growing in Cheshire that both the county’s Super League sides will be fighting for their lives by the end of July. There seems little prospect of an improvement in Widnes’ situation this week.