The 18th man column - One final push and second place could be ours

Wigan can climb up to second with a win tomorrow against Warrington ... would that represent a decent finish if they were there at the end of the regular season?

Thursday, 15th August 2019, 12:11 pm
Wigan could climb to second with a win against Warrington

David Bailey: If you’d have offered Wigan fans a play-off spot a couple of months ago they’d have snapped your hand off.

Second would be an incredible finish and would justify the decision to appoint Adrian Lam next season.

Especially given the disastrous form, the misdemeanours of Gabe Hamlin, Taulima Tautai (and Craig Mullen) and the wheels falling off.

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Wigan have beaten odd stiff competition for Jackson Hastings, signed George Burgess, have the unknown quantity of Bevan French, and even the announcement of Hummel has created a buzz.

Coupled with the breakthrough of Oli Partington, Morgan Smithies and Liam Byrne and there’s a genuine excitement.

Saints are the team to beat but, with a decent side out, Wigan could rattle them in the play-offs .

Darren Wrudd: Every team in Super League wants to finish as high as possible up the table and, at times earlier this year, I did fear missing the playoffs was on the cards.

Not really sure what happened along the way, but that is a distant memory as we have put together some brilliant performances to scratch, scrape and sometimes snatch wins at the death.

But the spirit that our team has shown on the field has been inspiring.

Youngsters standing up like seasoned pro’s, senior players leading the way, and all under the umbrella of Adrian Lam, who has kept the faith and ‘infected’ the squad with his determination.

So yes, if we manage second spot, it would be a fantastic achievement which not many predicted.

Jeanette Lusher: It’s not very long ago that credibility would have been achieved by finishing the season in the top five considering how dramatic matters have been!

Injuries to senior players have decimated us, and subsequently a heavy reliance has been placed on our youngsters, who have risen to the challenge valiantly.

The team and coaching staff have applied themselves to the task of taking each game as it comes and are doing their utmost to improve week by week.

Eight league wins from the last nine fixtures is testament to their endeavours.

The realisation that second place is a possibility is getting the adrenaline flowing both on and off the pitch, for the team is hungry and the supporters are hungry.

Our destiny this season is now in our own hands, but come what may – win or lose – I am immensely proud of how everyone at Wigan Warriors has pulled together and ridden the storm.

Sean Lawless: If Wigan could finish second in the table it would be their greatest regular season achievement since winning the league leaders shield in 2012.

The fact that only a few weeks ago there was the real threat of a relegation battle is testament to the job that Adrian Lam has done at Wigan, and also the patience shown by Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinski.

Warrington have been in awful form for the last few weeks – do they have any chance of beating St Helens in next weekend’s Challenge Cup final?

David Bailey: Generally speaking, no. Warrington have lost Blake Austin, and I’m not sure if Matty Smith can play, but the odds are against Warrington.

Yes they have more Wembley experience than Saints, and could be targeting this game above all others, but they need 8/10 performances from eight or nine players

Darren Wrudd: I hate to write off a side, as it’s 80 minutes of rugby and anything can happen, but Warrington will have their work cut out.

Like it or not, Saints have shown the way in 2019 and it will be a good team who takes any silverware from them this year.

Not sure that Warrington have been up to much recently with some awful displays but, again, anything can happen.

On the day, they will need to play the game of their careers and, if they do, I will raise a glass to the Wire.

Jeanette Lusher: Certainly Warrington’s recent form is hardly confidence-boosting with four losses and their last win being against bottom club London Broncos!

However, they can take some consolation from how well their front row took on the Saints last week.

Hill, Akauola, Tasi and Murdoch-Masila put in plenty of biff and bash!

I do feel, however, that their chances of beating Saints at Wembley are reliant upon key players – the likes of Austin and Charnley returning from injury.

It’s a cup match, though, and anything can happen in 80 minutes.

Saints last made a Wembley appearance in 2008, and Warrington have been five times since then, so may possibly have an advantage in coping with the occasion.

For me, though, I just want the game to be a classic that epitomises all that is good about rugby league.

Sean Lawless: I think the poor form for Warrington could do them a favour in the Challenge Cup final, in that they go into the game as underdogs with nothing to lose – and that could be the perfect formula for them.

Unfortunately for Warrington, I do think their chances of success rely solely on whether they can Blake Austin to make a ‘Radlinski 2002’ type recovery for the final.

However, I do hope that their poor form continues on Friday!

What are your predictions for Friday’s game?

David Bailey: Regardless of whether Warrington stick or twist with team selection, Wigan have confidence in abundance.

Lam will have been working on the defence, which was really soft against Hull KR.

But even without the Wembley distraction, I think the Warriors have the bit between their teeth and will be that little bit more committed for the 50/50s.

Wigan really need to lay down a marker and this could be it.

I predict a pretty convincing win for the Warriors with George Williams running the show.

Darren Wrudd: If recent performances are anything to go by, Warrington will try to dominate the centre of the field, while Wigan will show how tough a team we are to dominate at all.

Still light in the pack, we will no doubt look to Smithies, Byrne and Partington to stand up and be counted – and I can’t wait!

These three have been frighteningly good of late and the toughness on display fills me with confidence.

If they can help give a platform for the backline to play behind, we might just ruin the Wolves day.

But beware, Wire are very good on the edges and, unless our edge defence is awake and sharp for 80 minutes, we could have a hard day at the office ourselves.

Jeanette Lusher: Last week saw quite a dip in form from the team.

The lads started both halves slowly yet managed to secure the win in the final quarter.

There will have been honest discussions this week and errors addressed and hopefully dealt with. I feel the hunger and enthusiasm will be back in abundance on Friday.

The tantalising opportunity to sneak even higher up the league will surely bring out the best in the lads, not to mention finally putting one over on Warrington this season.

It’s a funny one to predict as Warrington may rest players prior to the Challenge Cup final, or they may put out their best 17 looking to gain some momentum going into the final.

I am highly confident, however, that victory for Wigan will be secured if we maintain our discipline and composure whilst building pressure with a good kicking game.

Sean Lawless: I think Wigan have got to avoid all ideas of focusing on whether Warrington will play a weakened team or not.

This is a great opportunity for Wigan to show their pedigree and to show the rest of Super League that they are a genuine threat once more.

I expect a Wigan win on Friday and I think it will 24-6 to the Warriors.