Hull KR and Wigan enjoyed differing seasons in 2021.
Yes, Wigan finished above the Robins, but the lofty expectations at the DW Stadium turned their fourth place finish into a disappointing one made all the worse by their early play-off exit due to an 8-0 defeat to Leeds at home. Thus, the Warriors have changed things up this winter with the appointment of a new coach in the shape of Matty Peet and a number of new signings as they look to right the wrongs of 2021.
As for Hull KR, there were very low expectations for the Robins last year and Hull KR surprised everyone finishing sixth and making it all the way to the semi-finals. With the likes of Lachlan Coote and Sam Wood adding further quality to an exciting squad, there’s a suspicion that they could again be a surprise challenger in 2022.
But who will enjoy the better start to the new season as they butt heads at Craven Park? Will Hull KR continue their recent good form against the Warriors or will Wigan show they’re a different kettle of fish in 2022 by defeating a side they failed to beat last year? We’re looking at both sides’ chances with a break down of the key battles, where the game will be won and lost as well as our prediction.
Jordan Abdull v Cade Cust: One of Super League’s best halfbacks of 2021 takes on one of the most exciting signings made in the off season as Jordan Abdull and Cade Cust battle for control of the game tomorrow. Abdull’s creativity and game management underpinned Hull KR’s success last year so Cust can’t afford to give him the luxury of control. As Wigan’s key signing, it’ll be his job to freshen up the Warriors’ attack in Round One.
George King v Patrick Mago: There’s a similar backdrop to this battle. George King isn’t perhaps the flashiest forward, but few are as hardworking as Hull KR’s new number 10 and he’ll look to give the Robins a solid base in tomorrow’s game. However, he’ll come up against one of Wigan’s key recruits in the shape of Patrick Mago who will hope to show Super League the physicality he can bring Wigan in 2022.
Kane Linnett v John Bateman: There’s an argument to be made that Kane Linnett was the league’s best backrow in 2021. His tally of 13 tries was more than any other forward and he was simply devastating down the left edge alongside Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Ryan Hall. In the opposite backrow, John Bateman will look to show he’s still a world class forward after failing to capture his very best form in 2021. With something to prove, he could be a force to be reckoned with.
Where the game will be won and lost:
In football they talk about the final third, in rugby league the best attacking zone is within the opposition’s 20 metre line. Wigan struggled to score points throughout last season so finding a try scoring formula in the danger zone against the Robins will be key to victory.
In terms of defence, Wigan will need to contain Hull KR’s potent left edge which registered 33 tries between them last year plenty of which were long range. If Hull KR can recapture that attacking magic they could be hard to stop. It was their points scoring ability that led to the double against Wigan last year after all.
Hull KR beat Wigan twice in 2021 and certainly have the attacking tools to do so again. They have only added to their arsenal of attacking talent with the arrival of Lachlan Coote and Sam Wood from Super League rivals. The atmosphere will also work in their favour as Hull KR fans will no doubt go into the season with great optimism.
However, Wigan look in a lot better shape than they did throughout last season. There too is a sense of optimism surrounding the Cherry and Whites that seems to be rubbing off on the players. It could bring the best out of the likes of John Bateman and that could see Wigan start the season with a win.
Verdict: Hull KR 20-22 Wigan