IT’S the battle of the Super League’s top try-scorers... but Joe Burgess expects chances to be at a premium in tonight’s sudden-death showdown.
Wigan and Huddersfield finished the regular campaign with the tightest defences in Super League.
Shaun Wane’s Warriors conceded just 530 points in 30 rounds, while Huddersfield weren’t far behind with just 534 points leaked on their way to finishing the season second and third respectively.
So while the wing duel between 27-try Jermaine McGillvary and fellow Dream Team flyer Burgess (23 tries) provides one of the sub-plots this evening, the departing Wigan ace reckons it may go down to the wire.
Asked what type of game he was expecting, he said: “A tight, low-scoring one.
“Huddersfield are like us, in that we’ve both got good defensive records – the best in the league – and it’s going to be a tough game.
“It might even come down to the wire, like it did last year (against Warrington).
“It’s a case of taking your chances when they come.”
Wigan are the favourites to win the massive DW Stadium encounter.
They have a proud record at home – having not lost since an extra-time defeat to NRL heavyweights Brisbane in February – and have won all three fixtures between the two teams this year expected to give them the edge.
“The league table doesn’t lie, it shows how close it’s been,” said Burgess.
“I know we’ve beaten Huddersfield this year but this is a whole new game, we’ve got to perform.
“You don’t want to go into an off-season thinking, ‘I wish I’d done this, I could have done that...’ It’s a horrible feeling.
“If you lose, you’re going home and waiting for next season.”
For Burgess, there is no ‘next season’ with Wigan, as he is joining Sydney Roosters for 2016.
But he has ambitions of breaking into the England team for the autumn Test series against New Zealand, which paves the way for another appearance at the DW Stadium before he departs.
He played as an emergency centre last Friday in a 47-12 victory against Castleford, but has been reinstated to his familiar wing role tonight.
And team-mate Tony Clubb hopes to take their dominant, second-half display into this evening’s showdown.
“We had a rusty first half and Waney told us to chill out in the second half, and we did that,” said Clubb.
“We started rolling forward and putting on our plays, and we scored some points.
“It was great to see Dom Manfredi get four tries. He is a freak of a kid – anywhere near their line, he’s so strong. It’s a credit to him because he’s been in and our of the side, but he’s worked really hard and come up trumps for us.”
Some would suggest Wigan have an easier fixture, against Huddersfield, than had they finished top and landed a play-offs game against St Helens.
“It is what it is, we’ll take anyone – our home record speaks for itself,” added Clubb.
“Huddersfield are a really good team, there were only a few points in it when we turned them over last time, it’s going to be a tough game.
“They’ve been consistent all year.
“I know they may not get the credit they deserve from others but we’ll be giving them every respect, because they’re not in the top four for no reason.
They’ve turned over some big teams along the way.”
Wigan: Bowen; Manfredi, Bateman, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Smith; Crosby, McIlorum, Flower, J Tomkins, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs: Powell, Clubb, Mossop, Patrick.
Huddersfield: Grix; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Connor, Murphy; Brough, Ellis; Kopczak, Robinson, Huby, Wardle, Hughes, Ferres. Subs: Crabtree, Bailey, Lawrence, Ta’ai.