Talking RL: ‘Real reason for poor Headingley run’

Who called a Wigan win, when Catalans went 22-0 ahead in the second-half?
Who called a Wigan win, when Catalans went 22-0 ahead in the second-half?
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Shaun Wane believes their poor record at Headingley may be down to Wigan showing Leeds too much respect.

There have been two rugby league World Cups since their last win at the venue in 2012 (remember it? A 50-8 hammering which had Rio Ferdinand celebrating with the players in the changing room).

Wigan have lost their last seven games at the ground.

Is the bad run a hoodoo? A sporting quirk?

I’ve another theory.

Wigan and Leeds are two well-matched sides, and this has simply been a case of home advantage tilting the scales in Leeds’ favour.

Salford's Magic Weekend shirt

Salford's Magic Weekend shirt

Leeds have won their last seven meetings at home, you say?

Wigan have won their last five home games against them!

And on neutral ground, with no home advantage for either, the split is more even, with Wigan edging four of the six clashes which have taken place since their epic 2012 Headingley win.

So it isn’t really fair to draw parallels between their run at Headingley and the Warriors’ eight-year Good Friday record with Saints, which recently came to a halt, because the venue for that derby fixture alternated each year.

Wigan and Saints are clearly both capable of beating each other on their day (in fact, Saints’ record in the later-season fixture is much better than Wigan’s); which suggests their Good Friday run was a quirk.

I share Liam Farrell’s view that it’s more important for the Warriors to win tomorrow for the confidence of beating a top side, rather than ending a run on their turf.

Wane’s men have been cruising along well and are sitting comfortably in second spot.

But their two losses have been narrow defeats to St Helens and Warrington, the sides sandwiching them in the ladder, and if they lose to Grand Finalists Leeds and Castleford over the next two weeks, it may just create a bit of doubt about what they’re capable of.

Games between Wigan and Leeds rarely disappoint. And with so many talented players on the pitch, this one should deliver.

Wigan’s win at Catalans on Saturday was not the biggest comeback in Super League history.

That record was achieved when they battled back from 26-0 down to win at Hull KR in 2012.

But in my opinion, their fightback last weekend was more impressive.

Rewind six years: The Robins scored all of their points in the opening 24 minutes – meaning Wigan had more than 55 minutes to poke their noses back in front.

But on Saturday, Wigan were 21 points down after half-time and only scored their first try in the 50th minute –sparking an astonishing turn of events in half-an-hour.

Throw in the loss of two key players (George Williams and Ben Flower), the travel to France and the quality of the opposition, and it made it arguably the club’s best comeback since that epic night at Odsal in 2007.

The statistics and the highlights don’t show how good Sean O’Loughlin was in that fightback.

You had to experience the game, without knowing the outcome, to truly appreciate how his composure and influence changed the flow of the match.

Play until he is 45? Maybe not.

But the 35-year-old doesn’t rely on pace, and his best qualities – whacking people, passing, vision, control, leadership – don’t diminish with time.

Other high-calibre forwards, such as Adrian Morley, Jamie Peacock, Steve Menzies and Kylie Leuluai played until their late 30s; I see no reason why O’Loughlin can’t do the same.

It was great to see local charity Joseph’s Goal emblazoned across the Warriors shirt on Saturday.

And credit to Salford, too, for their Magic Weekend design which will pay tribute to, and raise money for, victims of the Manchester bombing.

A lovely gesture and a stylish design.

A tip of the hat to Catalans Dragons.

I heard several Wigan fans praising the club for their hospitality on Saturday.

The atmosphere is relaxed, the game-day experience quite superb.

And after train strikes ruined my travel plans, the club’s media officer and local journalist kindly spent a lot of time ensuring I would reach Carcassonne airport in time!

Those gestures go a long way, and I truly wish them well for the rest of the season (I’m guessing I’m not the only Wiganer who hopes they avoid a relegation scrap, either).