Opponents: Leeds Rhinos
Venue: Headingley Stadium
A look at the Opposition
At the start of the month, I wrote in the 18th Man column in the Wigan Evening News that March would be a crucial month for Wigan and Leeds. At the time, Leeds had issued the dreaded public statement of support for Brian McDermott, with Gary Hetherington also stating that March would be a month in which they would view with interest. The tone of the letter to fans of the sport like myself, seemed to say – “if March is as bad as last season, McDermott will be on his way out”.
Well here we are, the game that could have potentially sealed Brian McDermott’s fate if they had lost a few games in March – however, the Rhinos come into the game, ahead of Wigan in the league and unbeaten in their last three games against Catalans, Huddersfield and Wakefield. Leeds look to be back to a good standard and certainly back to being a top 8 team again – whether they are a top 4 team – I am not yet convinced. At the start of the month, they were beaten 66-10 at Castleford and their season was derailing according to many – they look to be back on a steady level and will offer a very strong test for Wigan on Friday.
Ashton Golding has impressed me so far this season as a defensive fullback and looks to be very capable in that position. After watching him last season, he didn’t look to be a confident player and looked to be the player that teams would target. This season he looks far more comfortable and seems to be dealing with the pressure applied to him. For me, the biggest difference between Leeds in 2016 before the Super 8’s and now, is a good hooker. Segaryaro arrived too late to save their season last year but Parcell looks to be an astute signing. He hasn’t set the world alight but he has gone about his job efficiently and as a result, the rest of the team has benefitted.
Kallum Watkins will make his 200th Leeds appearance on Friday, whilst Brett Delaney comes back into the squad in place of Jordan Baldwinson. Keith Galloway and Stevie Ward also miss out through injury.
The Leeds Rhinos 19 man squad:
Wigan’s 19 man squad sees the return of Liam Farrell, Oliver Gildart and Ryan Sutton who replace Josh Ganson, Callum Field and Joe Bretherton.
Thoughts on the Game
Last weeks defeat against Hull FC was Wigan’s first of 2017 and with three disallowed tried, two of which have been confirmed by the RFL as refereeing errors and that they should have stood. Wigan will come into the game with confidence, an excellent attacking display in the final 20 minutes, inspired, unsurprisingly by George Williams will provide belief for Friday night. A bolstered pack of Farrell and Sutton and two recognised centres back in place (Gildart and Gelling) will certainly help Wigan get back to their early season high standards.
Leeds are going well and have looked good in their last three games, however, they are still not the Leeds of 2015 and Wigan should give Leeds respect, but certainly not fear this side. A win at Headingley feels long overdue and I am hopeful and expectant that we will get it on Friday night.
Again, at the start of the month in the Wigan Evening News 18th Man column, I suggested that if Wigan only lost one game in March, then that should be viewed as a massive achievement, with their injuries and post WCC. They are on the verge of being able to do that and discounting the Huddersfield draw, a pretty successful month leading into the games against Castleford and St Helens.
A good start for Wigan is essential, Wigan have trailed in three of their last five games, only winning one of those games. Wigan like a comeback but in some cases, you can leave it too late as we found out last week. A good strong start is the order of the day please and a good away day win at what looks like being, a soggy Headingley – bring a brolly – they’ve still not built a roof for us away fans!
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Leeds 12 – 22 Wigan
First Try Scorer: Liam Farrell
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