Wigan Warriors- The 18th man: 'It'll be a cracker and I'm confident we can win'

The 18th man contributors reflect on last week’s victory over Warrington and look ahead to Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final tie against St Helens at Elland Road.

By Amos Wynn
Friday, 6th May 2022, 12:00 pm

Darren Wrudd

I sometimes find it difficult to enjoy the success of a great performance like last week against Warrington as it feels like a false dawn, waiting to dash my hopes and dreams of glory once more as we totally fail to live up to our own hype, but this does feel a little different.

I need to learn to revel in the sight of French and Field cutting through a defensive line or the twinkle toes of Liam Farrell dancing through a tackle, or three, to effortlessly place a ball over the line.

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Wigan Warriors take on St Helens in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup at Elland Road

These are the moments when looking back it will be great to remember and say ‘I was there.’

However, I suspect Warrington will fail even more miserably than their usual efforts this year, but in true Yorkshire fashion, Powell will no doubt have plenty lined up to take the blame. The officials were bias, the crowd were wrongun’s, grass was the wrong type, not to mention the cheerleaders who were cheering all wrong too and distracting the lads.

The brass tack of it though is that they have a real confidence issue and too much has changed in their structure of plays that is simply not working.

Wire have a good set of players in that squad, some international quality for sure, they have the potential to do well, but I just can’t see it in them as of yet.

On the other hand, we seem to be building an attitude here at Wigan.

A freedom of play within a general game plan, with guidance from the very ‘under the radar’ Cade Cust alongside a fast maturing Harry Smith all backed up with a desire to defend.

Unlike Warrington, it’s not always our year, but this week will be a great measure of whether this one might be.

I hope that reports of explosive tummy syndrome with Jai Field have totally finished so that we can put on a show of determination coupled with skill and speed on Saturday with a full squad and all the controlled aggression that such a game demands.

Discipline is going to be a huge part of the match and free yards on the back of a penalty are a real danger if gifted to the lads from over the hill.

Attitude I feel is not a problem and I won’t even mind them putting the cue on the rack as we did late on last week, if we have just put as many points on the board.

Saints will be as desperate as we are to get through this game but I feel if we play our game, hit hard and hold the line without offering inside shoulders to leave a gap, we can look forward to a final and the possibility of bringing our cup home again.

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Robert Kenyon

The Warrington game showed what we can do as a team rather than rely on Field too much.

With Field off the pitch in the second half, it forced our hand and we did the business.

I thought Thornley played well and ran hard, Farrell was his usual industrious self, Harry Smith has stepped up to the plate this season and is playing to his potential, Bateman showed glimpses of his Canberra form, and I could go on.

Things might not be rosy at Warrington this season but for us to go to their backyard and give them a hiding is something to relish.

It sets us up in the best possible way to beat Saints in the semi-final this Saturday.

They are without a few so I'd say that gives us more of a chance for sure.

I'm glad Paddy Mago had the self control not to throw a punch against Warrington because that gives us a full pack to throw at Saints.

I can't wait to see Mago, Ellis, Singleton, Byrne and Havard all in action against the Saints pack. It'll be a cracker and I'm confident we can win.

Jon Lyon

How do you warm up for a Challenge Cup semi final against the old enemy? Well, racking up 40 points away at Warrington is a pretty good start. Another impressive performance with ball in hand from Wigan, with Field, Smith and French all combining well in attack.

Even with Wire out of sorts recently this was a dominant victory away from home. The tries we did concede were soft, as I'm sure Matty Peet would have been quick to point out, but that shouldn’t take the shine off a wonderful attacking display across the whole team.

It’s always hard to pick out individuals when the whole team plays this well.

Iain Thornley turned Toby King into a revolving door, such was the ease he went through him.

Patrick Mago’s offload was a thing of beauty, with Farrell gratefully snapping it up and waltzing round several Warrington defenders, some of them twice it seemed, on his way over the line.

Morgan Smithies was all action and Ethan Havard continued his ascent up the try scoring charts.

Harry Smith was outstanding with ball in hand again and there just aren’t any superlatives left for Jai Field, such is the chaos he causes in the opponents defence.

Such a comprehensive win must have left George Williams wondering what might have been. Sorry George, you made your choice and we’ve moved on, thanks for the memories but it’s time for the new breed to make their own history.

Speaking of which, beating Saints in Saturday’s semi-final will go a long way to achieving that.

Without doubt after losing fairly convincingly in the end on Good Friday, it's safe to say we were easily second favourites a few weeks ago.

An upturn in form, especially in attack, scoring 124 points in our three games since, combined with injuries to both Saints halves, has left us in the surprising position of now being borderline favourites.

Even without those players, Saints are capable of winning this game, but if we can tighten up the one on one mistakes in defence and our forwards are as aggressive from the outset as they have been, and can maintain that for the full eighty minutes then we have every reason to feel positive.

It’s tough to change a winning team but, if fit, I would be finding a place in the seventeen for Willie Isa.

We will need his (hopefully controlled) aggression and work rate in defence, although no-one really deserves to miss out. Matty Peet has some tough decisions with most of the squad now fit and playing well.

I’m looking forward to Kaide Ellis and Liam Byrne taking on Alex Walmsley, it’s about time someone put him on his backside and both have been throwing themselves into tackles and taking the ball up with complete disregard for their own, or anyone else’s, safety- it's fantastic to watch.

Ever the optimist, I’m expecting in form Cust and Smith to lead us round the park with Saints unable to cope with the injection of Field, and a 22-14 win.

Stephen Ford

I half expected a win at Wire but I didn’t expect it to be as easy as it was.

The avoidance of injury and suspensions was my main priority so to get such a convincing win was really pleasing.

From an attacking point of view we were impressive throughout the game or to be more accurate until we decided around the 55 minute mark that the game was won and we put the cue in the old rack.

If we wanted to, I think we could have posted at least 50 points and with no semi final on the horizon, and 60 points on the night would not have been beyond us.

Warrington have been poor for the majority of the season and remind me of us last year when we were rudderless, with no game plan or pattern.

I’m not a fan of Powell so to see his team struggling was also satisfying on the night.

It was also good to see Thornley get a couple whilst playing at centre and young Smith continuing to improve and build up his self-confidence.

French also continues to improve, however his defence is still very suspect and will be a primary concern on Saturday.

We scored a few really good tries and our ball handling at times was first class. With Field and French in the team we have two players who can score from anywhere on the pitch and make great yardage from defence.

Not a perfect display but a very strong eight out of 10 with the shortfall due to some very weak defensive lapses where at least two of the Wire tries should have been stopped.

I’m really looking forward to the game at Leeds on Saturday.

Even with their injuries I still make Saints the favourites however, we are still improving so a win for us would not be a great surprise.

We will not win unless we significantly improve our defence. If we defend like we did against Wire it could be a long afternoon.

Paasi ran us ragged on Good Friday and I thought that he changed the game when he came on. We need to keep him, Walmsley and Mata’utia as quiet as possible but that is easier said than done.

We will miss Tommy and Powell for their defensive efforts so the remainder of the playing squad will have to lift their game considerably to even give us a sniff of victory.

Even with Field playing so well and our display against Wire I think we will still need also our best attacking performance of the year because to win for me we will need at least three converted tries to win and it’s quite a while since we did that against Saints.

What I’m hoping for is a hot dry day and no rain for say two days prior to the game. It’s no coincidence that we have played to our best in dry conditions.

I predicted a big game for Cust on Good Friday and he didn’t supply. I’ve got a feeling that he will do this Saturday and hopefully help us to an overdue Challenge Cup final.