The 18th man: ‘Win or lose this, I’d still be confident Wigan could beat St Helens in Grand Final’

Catalans celebrate
Catalans celebrate
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Our 18th man columnists discuss the derby, the BBC’s Challenge Cup Final coverage, and the Lance Todd Trophy...

St Helens have beaten Wigan twice already this year – how important is it for the Warriors to get this win?

Jon Lyon: Aside from the fact that beating St Helens should always be paramount, I don’t think too much should be read into this game should we lose. Considering how Saints have taken most teams apart, they have only just scraped past us in the two games so far this season.

Should we meet them in the Grand Final I would still feel confident of beating them whether we win or lose this week. Of course it would be great to stop them picking up the League Leaders Shield, even if it only puts that off for another week.

Friday’s game should be about improving again towards the play off semi final, hopefully getting a couple more players back, and if we can grab the two points along the way and beat the old enemy then all the better.

Darren Wrudd: Talking the talk is just not the same and a Wigan side who says they can beat Saints on a given day after being outplayed twice this season is not the same as going and spoiling their fun in their own back yard.

It is massive in the run up to the semi-finals and a hopeful trip to Old Trafford.

I know that we have struggled at the wrong time of year with injuries but we have had 17 players out there just like they have and it is about time we taught them that 2018 is not going to be their year. The good that it will do to our squad going forward will be evident in the follow up games when confidence flows and points are scored. These are the games you want to play in, the biggest derby in rugby league.

Sean Lawless: Wigan need to beat St Helens, not for points in the league position or even to delay them winning the League Leaders Shield but mainly to give the side belief that Saints can be beaten. There is a very good chance that these two sides could meet again at Old Trafford and Wigan need the belief that they can beat St Helens, to have a chance of going into a Grand Final after losing three times against them will make a difficult task even harder.

David Bailey: If you asked any Wigan fan if they could only beat one team during the course of a season who they would choose, it would always be St Helens. I do think it’s vital that Wigan get the win this week, but not because of their opponents.

The Warriors will fancy their chances against Castleford or Warrington at home for a place in the Grand Final but a visit to either of those teams or Saints would be a totally different proposition.

With Castleford facing a bleary eyed Dragons side still high on Wembley euphoria it’s vital Wigan maintain breathing space in second. I honestly don’t think losing to Saints for a third time would have any impact on the result at a possible fourth meeting in either the semi or the Grand final as these games are derby games and anything can happen on the day.

What did you think of the BBC’s coverage of the Challenge Cup final?

Jon Lyon: I very much enjoyed the BBC’s coverage of the Cup Final. The coverage was long enough with plenty of preview and video footage for the build up.

Hosts and commentators are always going to be a personal preference, it’s hard to find people everyone will like. I think Mark Chapman is an outstanding host with bags of knowledge, humour and passion but who also lets his guests speak freely without feeling the need to butt in to show off his own intelligence, which is where I feel Brian Carney lets himself down on Sky.

I can take or leave Jon Wilkin but Jamie Peacock and Brian Noble speak intelligently and insightfully. I would happily do without Jonathan Davies, who can be negative at times, but I love listening to John Kear’s passion for the game, which comes through every time he speaks. One thing the BBC should do away with is Robbie Paul ambling across the pitch, talking to players trying to warm up and focus on the biggest game of their season, and only asking questions that are going to get standard obvious answers.

Darren Wrudd: There is a lot to like about the BBC’s coverage of the final and a few blips of what should be dumped. The guests they have, ex players, TV celebs and the odd coach bring different views and much experience to the screen and can be very interesting to listen to. But who on earth told Robbie Hunter Paul to wander around the field before and most annoyingly during the game? The commentary from Dave Woods is always pretty good and needs to be with Jonathan Davies on board as he just does not seem to know the rules. But it is nice to hear players comments on situations as they happen rather than the usual bias comments from scouse Eddie and the referee’s biggest super fan Mr Cummings. All in all I like how the BBC cover it and they do seem to be getting better at it.

But perhaps a little Wayne Godwin is what is needed to really spice up the fun element. Lets be honest, there’s no-one quite like Wagga.

Sean Lawless: I thought the BBC coverage was a breath of fresh air, for starts we had an hour to build up to the game, something that simply doesn’t happen on Sky anymore.

Their decision to bring in Adam Hills and so a piece outside the stadium was refreshing. All in all very good coverage, however I am sure that Jonathon Davies’ time as a rugby league commentator must be up?! He is out of touch with Rugby League and offers very little now in terms of insight as a co-commentator.

David Bailey: I much prefer the BBC’s coverage of rugby league than Sky’s. I think that Mark Chapman and Dave Woods are superb leads for the coverage and always come across as insightful. Tanya Arnold complements the team effort. The work that went into the Watersplash final and the code breakers documentary was wonderful, especially in this day and age when some fans aren’t allowed to remember RL before the Summer era and Sky Sports. There are some elements that I don’t like, such as Robbie Hunter Paul interrupting the warm ups but on the whole it gives a great platform to bring the game to a wider audience and the inroads made with the online broadcasts for the Challenge Cup rounds particularly the amateur clubs has been a breath of fresh air.

Tony Gigot won the Lance Todd - right call?

Jon Lyon: Personally I thought McIlorum should have won the Lance Todd trophy, and I wonder if people felt with having a French team finally win the cup it would be right for a French player to win the Lance Todd. There wasn’t a great deal in it though, although Gigot and many of his team mates were nowhere near as good on the day as they were against Saints in the semi final.

Warrington will be kicking themselves for the missed opportunities they threw away. I can’t remember the last time Kevin Brown had a decent game let alone excelled, and Blake Austin will make a huge difference for them next season instead of the often ineffective Tyrone Roberts. The sooner they get rid of Tom Lineham the better. Someone of his size and pace should be unstoppable, but diving for the try line from eight yards out was ridiculous and many stupid decisions like that cost the Wire the cup. Catalans though defended superbly and deserved their win. After years of me criticising his teams, maybe I was wrong, and perhaps McNamara does have something about him as a coach after all.

Darren Wrudd: The game itself was a little surprising for me in the dominance showed by the Catalans Dragons. They have tried all year to dominate sides with their huge pack although I thought Warrington would give them a run for their money but really struggled to cope. I have said many times how I don’t think Catalans should have been allowed into our domestic competition but if anything spells the success of such an experiment it is the silverware in the cabinet. I wish the Dragons a hearty congratulations on such an achievement. Their best player by far was given the honour of the Lance Todd Trophy and Tony Gigot showed the passion that a cup final should endow. I hope he carries on the tradition of a visit to the grave of Lance Todd to show that respect flows both ways.

Sean Lawless: I think the 40/20 from Tony Gigot perhaps took the Lance Todd trophy away from Lewis Tierney. I expected Gigot and McIlorum to be in contention but Tierney’s performance was incredible. Not only did he score a good try, his most important contribution was the slide to prevent Warrington scoring at a crucial part of the game.

Catalans played the perfect game, its as simple as that. They had 100% completion rate in the first half and a bruising defensive charge led by McIlorum meant that Warrington were bruised, confused and for the most of the time, clueless.

David Bailey: There were a few candidates for the Lance Todd trophy but Gigot stood out considerably in my opinion. On the whole, I hope rugby league takes advantage of the fillip that a Dragons Challenge Cup win could provide. Don’t get me wrong I have a lot of friends who are Warrington fans and I was disappointed for them personally but the win for the Catalan’s side could give the game a huge boost internationally. Imagine if Toronto can win the right to play in Super League next season too and what this could do for the international profile of the game. Apparently the Dragons are parading the cup at a Barcelona game, they got team of the week on the prestigious L’equipe magazine and there have been images of homecomings and celebrations all week. Micky Mac ranks it as one of his greatest achievements and he’s had a few.