WIGAN will face in-form Catalan in a sudden-death showdown this Sunday after going down 26-18 to St Helens at the DW Stadium yesterday.
The defending champions would have progressed to the semi-finals if they had beaten Saints.
But they were second-best throughout most of the contest, and the defeat means they must now overcome the French outfit at the DW this weekend to book a place in the last-four the following week.
Michael Maguire, though, navigated the tricky route to Old Trafford last year and is confident his players can do the same as they aim to defend their Super League trophy.
He said: “We learned the hard way last year, so it’s another opportunity for us. But we’re well aware that we will need to make improvements.
“We’ve got another chance, it’s do-or-die now and we know what’s at stake.”
As well as Wigan’s game against Catalan (kick-off 5pm), who destroyed Hull KR 56-6 on Saturday, Huddersfield will play Leeds in this weekend’s other match following the Rhinos’ 42-10 win against Hull FC.
Warrington will choose which of the two victors they face in the semi-finals, with the other outfit travelling to take on St Helens, who earned the right to stage a home semi-final by beating the Warriors.
“Credit to St Helens – they showed a lot of hunger,” said Maguire. “We put ourselves under pressure with the penalties we conceded and errors. We didn’t take our chances, and you can’t afford not to do that, certainly not against quality opposition.”
St Helens, who failed to win any of their previous five derby clashes, raced into a 14-0 lead thanks to tries from Paul Wellens and Jonny Lomax but the Warriors cut the deficit to just two points with tries either side of half-time from Pat Richards and Sean O’Loughlin.
However, Saints pulled clear once more and clinched victory with further tries from Wellens and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.
“At half-time the players knew what they needed to do, and there were times when they did that, but unfortunately we didn’t consistently do that,” added Maguire.
Maguire said Ryan Hoffman is expected to be fit for Sunday’s play-off game after suffering a back spasm early in yesterday’s game. He reported no other injury concerns and may be boosted by the return of Lee Mossop.
TICKETS for Wigan’s play-off game next Sunday went on sale at the DW Stadium ticket office this morning. It will be the last rugby league game at the venue this year.
WIGAN’S Under-20s have opted to face Wakefield in this weekend’s semi-final.
The reserves had the ClubCall and opted for the Wildcats ahead of Castleford.
The game is likely to take place at Orrell this Sunday, but details could be confirmed as early as today.