There’s just something about a Wigan v Saints game on Good Friday that no other game in a season. That feeling of being off work (for those lucky people) and having a great spectacle of a rugby league game to look forward to, followed by a long Easter weekend.
The old Boxing Day derbys had their own feel and now in the Summer era, the Good Friday games have taken on their own special unique feeling. When I think of a Good Friday game, the weather seems to either be glorious sunshine or horrendous rain – normally rain in Wigan! The timing of Good Friday in the summer era means that you normally have two sides a few games into the season, having found form or desperate for form – which can make for some great games. Coming into the 2017 Good Friday game, both sides are probably in the desperate for form category, Wigan after not winning their last four games and St Helens who seem to appear to turn a corner in the season – only to be knocked back by the likes of their performance against Salford.
Wigan’s Super League record in the Good Friday games was pretty shocking pre-2010, having won only in 1998, 2003, 2005. Since 2010 however, Wigan are unbeaten in Good Friday games starting back with the last Derby at Knowsley Road. Since then, we have had the last minute Liam Farrell winner at the DW, the Hock/Tomkins celebrations in the front of the Saints fans at Langtree Park (I cant bring myself to call it the Totally Wicked Stadium), the Clubb tackles in 2015 to trap Saints in their own 20 metres, the O’Loughlin pass to Sarginson in 2014 away from home and last year, well last year was just a bit easy really. This week, we will be uploading highlights from certain very-good Friday games. Yesterday we looked back at the 2003 game – a game which Sean O’Loughlin has mentioned on the Wigan website this week as the game to draw inspiration from. Wigan, aren’t quite at the stage they were in 2003 and that’s probably due to the foresight and development in youth that we have seen under Ian Lenagan and Shaun Wane but Wigan go into this game with their 5th and 6th choice wingers likely to start against St Helens first choice wingers. However, Wigan and Wane accept no excuses and a win on Friday is a must.
Seven years in a row Wigan have made Easter an enjoyable one for their fans and what a time of the year it is for rugby. Two games in a weekend for all teams and afterwards the Super League table starts to take shape. This year, probably more so that recent years, the Easter Weekend is crucial for Wigan and Saints. Wigan play Wakefield in their second game, whereas Saints face Castleford. Two defeats for one of the teams, leaves them with a battle to get back in contention for a top four place – a battle which, you could see Wigan overcoming with returning bodies, but Saints have pretty much their first team available at the moment.