John Asiata a marked man at St Helens says Barrie McDermott

With Wigan Warriors top of the league, their bitterest rivals were St Helens were hoping to notch a vital win against Leigh Leopards tonight.

It has been a fiery affair from the opening minute with some high tackles and moments when players turned to pushing and shoving.

This was largely down to the recent history between the two and the comments that spun out from it.

The Super League Champions are hoping to avenge their defeat to the Challenge Cup winners in the semi-final.

That game was hugely controversial given the game saw Alex Walmsley and Agnatius Paasi suffer season ending injuries at the hands of John Asiata leading to a passionate statement from Paul Wellens.

With possible bad blood there, Wellens warned his side to remain disciplined on Saints TV:

“We’ll play this game the same way we’ve been playing or would play any other game, we’re going out there to work hard for each other, but we want to retain our discipline.

“What I think got lost in the aftermath of that is the fact that my grievances weren’t with Leigh as a Rugby League Club. I think Leigh have been a real shining light in 2023 in terms of what a strong Rugby League Club should look like in this country.

“I think Derek Beaumont, the way he’s invested into the club, the stuff they do off the field, Adrian Lam, I think he’s a wonderful coach, he’s getting his team playing in a great way.

“I have a lot of respect for Leigh and the people that work there, I think they do a fantastic job. Although I would have loved for us being at Wembley a few weeks ago, it was also in some way very nice to see a team like Leigh get the rewards that they deserve as well. So, certainly no grievances on my part with Leigh.”

However, in a shock twist Asiata has been left out by the Leopards tonight.

This might be a good thing with Barrie McDermott suggesting that he would have been a marked man:

“I’ve got to try and transport my mind from the 90s and the 00s to the modern day and I think we all agree that the game has moved on and physicality has a benchmark, has a glass ceiling.

“But I don’t know. if I knew a player from an opposition team had ruined the season for one of my teammates then I think I’d take that into the next time I saw them.”

Paul Rowley added: ” The one thing you can’t change in this great sport that we play is emotion and that emotion and that sort of narrative will be definitely spoken about in the, not in a thuggish way but certainly in a retribution in terms of physicality and what they want to do to this team.

“It’s not just that but the fact that they’ve not beaten this team in two occasions so there’s a lot of emotion on this team today definitely.”

On a potential rivalry with Leigh, Wellens said this week:

“I think the more of those types of games we can get in Super League, the better. We have a great rivalry with Wigan, that sells itself.

“Obviously, our rivalry with Warrington as well, it’s grown over the years. To build a similar rivalry with a club like Leigh would be excellent too.

“We’re looking forward to the weekend, the challenge that that presents us, and the atmosphere that it will generate. Like all clubs, you want to play in front of a lot of fans and you want the best atmosphere, and I think we’ll see that on the weekend.”