Quite clearly Super League’s best two teams last season as the Warriors proudly took top spot after beating the Saints in the best league game of the year before St Helens claimed the Super League title by defeating Wigan in one of the greatest Grand Finals ever.
Plenty assumed they’d be the best two teams again in 2021. Although that was initially the case, they’ve fallen off the pace recently however it would take a brave man to bet against either side making it to Old Trafford at the end of the season.
So, ahead of their Grand Final rematch today, we’re giving you our St Helens and Wigan combined XIII.
Fullback: Lachlan Coote
I honestly believe Coote doesn’t receive the credit he deserves. The former North Queensland man has been brilliant since joining St Helens. Yes, many swoon to live-wire Bevan French or the mercurial talent of Sam Tomkins when it comes to picking a favourite fullback but Coote is arguably the league’s most complete number one. He can organise, create and score in attack and is a safe pair of hands in defence.
Wingers: Tommy Makinson and Regan Grace
How can you see past these two on the wing? At this moment in time, when fit, Tommy Makinson is easily the best winger in the world for me. He has everything you’d want from a winger and more given his ability to score impossible tries. As for Grace, he’s again improved this year and has been St Helens’ best player at times this season. No one can jink and weave like the Welsh winger and he’s come up with some massive plays this term. Just look at his try in the Challenge Cup semi-final for instance.
Centres: Jack Welsby and Jake Bibby
Wigan fans must have nightmares about Jack Welsby. The youngster came up with the most memorable try in Grand Final history to snatch victory in the decider last year and some say Wigan still haven’t recovered. Despite the hype surrounding him this year he’s only gotten better even being involved in the England set-up. He has six tries and six assists to his name and looks headed for the Young Player of the Year Award. As for Bibby, he’s well in the hunt for the top try scorer award with 8 scores to his name. Yes, you might prefer him on the wing but he’s been Wigan’s form back this season and continues to improve after making a splash in the 2019 Grand Final against St Helens in a Salford shirt.
Halves: Jonny Lomax and Jackson Hastings
Super League’s best two players over the last two or three seasons were fairly easy picks in the halves. Jonny Lomax is the creative hub for the Saints, everything they need comes through him. At times this season he’s got them out of sticky situations with moments of class. He also has 11 assists to his name. As for Hastings, he went from masterminding Salford’s trip to Old Trafford to closing the gap between Saints and Wigan last term. The best scrum-half in the league, imagine how effective he’d be alongside Lomax.
Props: Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Alex Walmsley
When it comes to props, there’s none finer than Alex Walmsley. He’s Super League’s best front-rower and up there with the very best on the planet. The other prop was hard to choose. Brad Singleton is a very good prop and has two Grand Final wins to his name whilst Wigan also boast the likes of Ethan Havard and some other exciting forwards. But ultimately, I need to reward LMS’ form this year. In the absence of the injured Matty Lees, he’s stepped up and carried Saints forward. It should be said that if there was a bench, Agnatius Paasi would be the first name on it owing to the explosivity he brings when brought on.
Hooker: James Roby
It should be said that I think Sam Powell is a really underappreciated player. However, he was never going to get in this side ahead of James Roby but who would? Roby is the best number nine in Super League history for me and, even if in the twilight of his career, he still has an awful lot of quality after all he did claim the Harry Sunderland award last season.
Second-Rowers: Liam Farrell and Morgan Smithies
Liam Farrell has been the in-form second-rower over the last 18 months. He entered a renaissance last season which saw him named in the Super League Dream Team and this year he continues to impress. His quality was there for all to see for England when he grabbed two tries the first of which was really impressive. As for Smithies, he’s another who goes under the radar but grafts like there’s no tomorrow in the Wigan back-row. Based on sheer quality, John Bateman would make the team but I can’t ignore Smithies’ form this season.
Loose-Forward: Oliver Partington
St Helens haven’t really had much stability at loose-forward. Morgan Knowles started the year injured so Sione Mata’utia started the season at 13 before moving into the second-row. Knowles is a very good number 13 and if he’d have been fit all season, he’d forced his way into the side. However, Oliver Partington has been a mainstay at loose-forward for Wigan this campaign and continues to impress. Not the flashiest of players, he gets through a lot of work. Taking over from Sean O’Loughlin, he had big shoes to fill this year but that clearly hasn’t be phased.