It’s semi-final week and the fun starts as Wigan Warriors host Leeds Rhinos at the DW Stadium.
In a repeat of the inaugural Grand Final, the Warriors and the Rhinos are meeting in a game where Old Trafford is the reward for the eighth time with four wins a piece so far and seven of the previous eight occasions the winner of this game have gone on to win the Grand Final.
Two sides who have had very different seasons, Wigan have been ploughing away from Round One easily downing the Rhinos in Round Two with ease. That defeat was part of a difficult start to the season for the Rhinos which left them worrying about relegation so to be 80 minutes away from the Grand Final is remarkable. Can they go all the way or will it be Wigan returning to the Grand Final.
Wigan Warriors were always going to be without Liam Farrell for this game but have now lost Cade Cust after Matt Peet admitted he was “touch and go” for the game. Fortunately, they do have Sam Powell back in the squad. If he plays it’ll be his 250th appearance for the club.
It’s mostly bad news for the Rhinos. Harry Newman and David Fusitu’a after being described as “possible but not probable” by Rohan Smith both miss out on the squad as does Ash Handley. Rhyse Martin’s ban has been upheld so he won’t feature nor will Morgan Gannon after suffering a head knock last week. Mikolaj Oledzki and Aidan Sezer are doubts for the game but at least the Rhinos have Bodene Thompson back.
Match Preview – Key Battles:
Jai Field vs Richie Myler: Jai Field is a Man of Steel nominee and would be deserving winner after a sublime season. He scored a hat-trick against Leeds earlier this season and producing magic in this game could see Field act as the difference in this contest especially against a potentially tired Leeds side. As for Richie Myler, he’s been top drawer towards the end of the season and been one of Leeds’ most reliable attacking threats. He too could be the difference.
Bevan French vs Zak Hardaker: Though these two won’t be playing in the same position and usually are on opposite sides of the field, I can see Rohan Smith asking Hardaker to do a similar job to what Harry Newman did against French at Headingley. Hardaker is a brilliant wide defender but also an attacking threat but he will have his hands full against the electric French.
John Bateman vs James Bentley: Two second-rows who will not take a backwards step and both are real competitors. This could be a real vicious battle with great tenacity shows as well as real touches of class.
Where the game will be won and lost:
This may sound overly simple, but this game could be all about energy. Wigan are a side with electric pace so if they can tire Leeds out, gaps will start to open allowing French and Field to devastate the Rhinos. If Leeds can conjure up the energy to stay on top rolling Wigan down the field they may have what it takes to win. However, the absence of their key players may cost them in the big moments.
Score Prediction: Wigan Warriors 26-12 Leeds Rhinos