Saints hatch expansive plan to down Wigan
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Saturday 01 October 2011
St Helens and Wigan meet for the sixth time this season tonight – and for two clubs striving for an Old Trafford Grand Final it will not feel like too much of a good thing.
Wigan have won two and drawn one in Super League, as well as beating Saints in the Challenge Cup semi-final, but they lost to their old rivals in the first round of the play-offs two weeks ago. There is not a great deal that they don't know about each other.
Saints' coach, Royce Simmons, is on record this season as saying that they cannot beat Wigan by playing them at their own game, although Warrington did precisely that a month ago.
Saints, on the other hand, do not want to get tied into a forward battle down the middle. Quick play-the-balls and expansive ball movement will be their creed. The question then arises of who is best equipped to put the plan into operation. Leon Pryce is fit again for what could be his last game for St Helens, but Lee Gaskell and Jonny Lomax have performed so well together, notably in their last outing against the Warriors, that it would be a brave man who would break up their partnership.
Paul Wellens needs one try to bring up his 200 for the club and there would be few better times to score it.
Wigan answered most of the questions about their resilience and energy levels with their 44-0 thrashing of a strongly-fancied Catalan Dragons side last Sunday. Joel Tomkins is fit, after being withdrawn as a precaution with a leg knock when that match was safely won, while Lee Mossop is also included after missing that game through failing a late fitness test on his hamstring.
The Wigan coach, Michael Maguire, has confirmed, however, that Ben Cross has played his last game for the club, after fracturing his forearm for the second time. He is joining Widnes next season.
Another Wigan player looking towards next season is Amos Roberts, who has played just six games and needs another operation on his knee.
With a back three of Sam Tomkins, Josh Charnley and Pat Richards in such consistently good form, Roberts has hardly been missed this season. He hopes to be fit to try to force his way back into the side early next year.
Tomorrow is devoted to the Championship Grand Finals, with Sheffield Eagles, without the suspended Menzie Yere, playing Featherstone Rovers in the main game. Keighley and Workington meet in the Championship 1 decider, for the right to go up alongside the already promoted Swinton.
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