Wigan Warriors- Talking Rugby: The derby with St Helens is one fixture you can never grow tired of
This year we’ve been treated to it on a number of occasions.
The majority of the time in Super League, fatigue starts to set in once the loop fixtures begin to take over.
Games can feel a little pointless, especially when you’re watching two teams go head-to-head for the second time in a month.
That has probably started to creep in a little bit in recent weeks, especially with excitement for the play-offs building.
The exception to this is of course a derby game, especially the one that’s taking place at the DW Stadium.
Wigan and St Helens always deliver, and there is a reason why they currently occupy the top two spots in the table.
This may be the fourth meeting between the sides this season, but every game has had quality and drama, leaving fans wanting more.
It’s truly the standout clash of rugby league in this country, and another close encounter should be on the way.
If you’re trying to introduce someone new to the sport, then this is the match that you take them.
Under Matty Peet, Wigan have certainly closed the gap on Saints this season.
The win against them in the Challenge Cup semi-final at Elland Road is the standout result, but good signs were also there in the Magic Weekend defeat.
While it wasn’t a fantastic display from the Warriors against a weakened opposition, some positives could be taken from the way they competed against the team that remains the benchmark.
Kristian Woolf’s side could confirm the League Leaders shield with a victory in this game, which is something Wigan will be looking to avoid.
Of course, they won’t want to see their rivals lift some silverware on their patch, but nor will they want to give ground to the team below them.
Securing second is crucial for the Warriors, not just because of the week off it provides in the play-offs, but due to the momentum it can give a side.
In order to successfully navigate through these final matches of the regular season, the right amount of game management is required.
Wigan’s victory over Toulouse Olympique was the perfect kind of performance for this time of the year.
They scored early on to give themselves a good foundation in the game, and then just did the simple stuff throughout to help them on the way to the 52-6 win.
Of course, their French opponents didn’t put up the biggest of fights, but a different opening to the game might’ve led to a different story.
The way they were able to control the game, meant they could preserve vital energy heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.
Matty Peet had already opted to make a few changes, which included Abbas Miski, who came in to give Liam Marshall a rest.
Players like the Lebanon international are crucial at this stage of the campaign, as they can slot in so seamlessly despite not having played for around a month.
The inclusion of John Bateman and Liam Farrell was another big boost, as will the other players who are returning across the next few weeks.
Once again, Bevan French made the headlines as he claimed his fourth hat-trick of the campaign.
As seen throughout the last few months, when teams leave space for him on the wing, he’s clinical enough to make the most of every opportunity.
Even when it looks as if nothing is on, he only needs a little bit of room to unleash his lightning pace.
Along with Jai Field, it’s enough to make any defence fearful.
As for Toulouse, it’s a great shame that their time in Super League is coming to an end as they were a fine addition who have been able to compete in short bursts.
Hopefully they’ll be back, alongside head coach Sylvain Houles who has been a class act and is a great ambassador for the sport in France.
Back to Wigan, like every team, they will need to make full use of their squad.
Their game against St Helens is quickly followed by a trip to Hull KR, as part of a double-header across the bank holiday weekend.
It’s unclear who actually thought this was a good idea.
Of course, due to the World Cup, the season has to end earlier, but wouldn’t it make more sense just to drop a set of fixtures instead of trying to ram them in.
It feels like an extra strain on the players that was avoidable, considering that it is just another lot of loop games.
Welfare was quite clearly not a consideration, and it’ll be a tough weekend for the clubs with the thinner squads or any injury concerns.
Finally, on an equally miserable note, is Sweet Caroline being overplayed?
Of course, it’s been a great sporting anthem for many years, which has only been amplified more in recent times, but does it need a break?
Hearing it before and after matches, no matter where you go, means it is slightly losing its charm.
There’s nothing better than belting it out after a big win, but that should be the only time it is saved for.
It’s not a warm-up track, it’s for a celebration.
We need to start using Sweet Caroline more responsibly at sporting occasions or risk it losing its shine.