WIGAN St Patrick’s host Ince Rose Bridge in the big Wigan derby on Saturday afternoon when local fans are expected to pack the sidelines at Clarington Park for one of the big clashes of the National Conference League.
St Pat’s are topping the table on a superior points difference ahead of Wath Brow Hornets and Siddal in a three-horse tie, and any slip-up will let their rivals in if they can pick up points on their travels.
But after suffering a crushing 48-8 defeat at the Bridge’s Pinfold Street Ground earlier this year, Pat’s have certainly got something of a score to settle.
“It’s another massive game for us,” said St Pat’s Richard Owen.
“Rose Bridge may have lost a little bit of form recently, but this is a big derby game and they will be determined to put one over us.
“They inflicted us with our heaviest defeat of the season and were unstoppable, and although they have lost their last four games, we know this match will be as tough as any that have gone before.”
Owen is well aware of the qualities of the Bridge side and is a huge admirer of half back Tony Baker and hooker Matty Meadon, both of which he knows through his duties with the international set-up.
“Tony is a fabulous player, who gets around the park and is a super organiser,” added Owen.
“Matty has been outstanding all season and his duel with our own up and coming young hooker, Anthony Griffiths, is going to be worth the trip for anyone who loves rugby league.
“Rose Bridge are a quality side and despite their losses they are still only four points behind us. Wayne Leyland is a terrific player too in the centre, but they will miss the influence of the injured Scott Winstanley.
“Having said all that it is about how we play and last weeks Challenge Cup win over Thatto Heath showed true character. We let them back in the game and were then trailing 20-18, before a last minute try and conversion from scrum half Dean Hatton snatched us a win with the very last play of the game.
“There were some top performances from our lads in a great game, but Tony Suffolk, Brett Whitehead, Rees Sedgewick and Anthony Atherton were outstanding alongside young Griffiths.
“This week we will be without Anthony Gallear, Liam Gannon and Dec McLoughlin, but every side has this problem and it is something you cope with. It gives opportunities for other players. It’s a huge match for us and one we very much want to win.”