It’s a one-a-piece from the previous games this season as Wigan Warriors take on Leeds Rhinos. Leeds won the game at their home ground of Headingley 26-14 back in Round six, with Wigan winning the game at the Magic Weekend in Round 16 27-12.
For the last three seasons, the two sides have faced each other at least three times, with Wigan never winning less than two of the games. But the home side will no doubt be the underdogs to continue their streak of aggregate wins over the Leeds Rhinos.
In the previous round of games, the two teams had very different results.
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Wigan put in a terrible performance against Warrington, managing to score only a single try in a 17-6 loss. It was not as though it was a stellar Warrington performance; the home side were entering the game off the back of just 2 wins from their last 6.
Leeds, on the other hand, looked great against St. Helens, running out startling 48-16 victors; a scoreline that wouldn’t be expected for a 1st vs 2nd fixture.
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This isn’t the first time Wigan have looked poor of late. The game previous to their loss against Warrington was a narrow victory of 12-19 over Salford; the home side there led 12-0 at half time. The week previous to that, they were comfortably beaten by St. Helens 30-14. This gives them a very poor average of only 10 points per game in their last 3, the lowest in the league.
Leeds are finding the form that they displayed earlier in the season with 10 wins from their opening 11 games. They may have only won 3 of their last 5, but the win – and, more importantly, the performance – against Saints showed that they were still capable of those performances.
League Positions At Stake
The Rhinos know that a victory puts them in a possible top spot for the commencement of the Super 8s. Should they win, and St. Helens lose tomorrow night, there will be a five point gap between 1st and 2nd, with only four points on offer.
A win for table position is just as crucial for the Warriors, who aren’t as comfortable in 3rd place as they were a couple of weeks ago. A loss, and wins for Huddersfield against St. Helens, and for Castleford against Hull FC – both entirely possible – would put Wigan in to 5th position! With Wire playing Wakefield, and Catalans playing Widnes, the gap between Wigan and 7th position could be just 2 points.
A startling difference of fortunes for the Warriors, who had the possibility of top place, had they beaten St. Helens 2 rounds ago. However, a win would put them just 2 points off top spot!
The Rhinos will be without Hardaker, who has a 1 game suspension after a dangerous throw on Travis Burns in the game against Saints, and Stevie Ward, who damaged his ankle in the same game.
Wigan welcome back Tony Clubb and John Bateman, and Josh Charnley replaces the injured Dominic Manfredi.
The game is Leeds’ to lose, without a doubt. But they are a team who play better in those high pressure situations. And playing in a game where they are expected to lose may give Wigan the motivation to prove themselves, and a relaxation in attack that they have been lacking of late.
Either way, Leeds can’t expect to win by as much, and Wigan can’t afford to lose by as much, as their previous games.
Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, McIlorum, Mossop, O’Loughlin, Patrick, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Tautai, Tomkins, Williams
Leeds Rhinos: Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Cuthbertson, Singleton, Keinhorst, Walters, Yates, Mulhern, Handley, Garbutt,