Our 18th man panel address this week's rugby league questions.
Has Wigan’s performance against St Helens changed your view about their title chances?
Sean Lawless: Wigan proved at Magic Weekend that they can put in an exceptional performance and since then, perhaps owing to off field distractions at the club, they have failed to get back to the level.
However, Friday night saw Wigan go above and beyond the Magic Weekend performance, it was brutal, exceptional and incredible! They have proven now that they can beat anyone and everyone, consistency in is now Wigan’s biggest demon as they head into the final run in.
Robert Kenyon: The tide has turned that’s for sure, Saints were running away with the league up until the Challenge Cup semi-final and that heavy and unexpected defeat seems to have burst their bubble. Ben Barba has got one foot in the departure lounge and Danny Richardson’s confidence is lower than whale excrement.
The only one in that team on a high seems to be LMS who is their cheerleader in chief, he’s like one of those monkeys smashing two symbols together which has novelty value at first but becomes really annoying after five minutes.
I can see Warrington turning Saints over in the play-offs and I hope they do, to really rain on Saints’ parade.
Jon Lyon: There has never been any doubt our players have the ability to make an impression on the play-offs, but seeing them put in their best performance of the season away at the (once) runaway leaders is a massive boost to all fans. We certainly seem to be building back to our best at just the right time.
The players were exceptional from first minute to last, and when they perform like that they are almost unplayable. Having Sean O’Loughlin back makes such a huge difference to the control we play with and seems to give George Williams a freedom to create at will.
Joe Greenwood looked unstoppable, and whilst replacing John Bateman is an impossible task, the prospect of Farrell and Greenwood in the second row is looking a tasty one.
Presuming we don’t suffer a St Helens-like collapse in the next few weeks there is no reason to fear anyone. Fingers crossed we can also add the likes of Liam Farrell, Sam Tomkins, Dom
Manfredi and Taulima Tautai to the match day squad and things are looking rosy in the cherry and white camp.
Darren Wrudd: I suppose after a couple of defeats to Saints this year already, a win has certainly given me the hope that if we manage to get to Old Trafford we have a proper chance of success. It was the manner of the win that has given me hope though.
A couple of times this year our determination has shone through in the controlled aggression on display and the Saints must have had a full treatment room on Friday for rehab.
If we take that aggression forward through the next few games then anything is possible and a trip to Manchester might just be on.
David Bailey: The Warriors’ performance against Saints, was the happiest I have been since the Magic Weekend victory over Warrington. It has certainly enhanced their title credentials in my view. Granted, Saints are having a bit of a wobble having lost two of their opening three Super 8s games coupled with the Challenge Cup final loss but Wigan showed great composure and accelerated away after Saints tried to get back into the game. The pleasing thing for the Warriors is that there are still influential players to be welcomed back as the season reaches it’s climax.
How pleased will you be to see Dom Manfredi back in action?
Sean Lawless: I will be over the moon to see Dom back, the physical effort to come back from an injury that has affected two years of a career is hard enough but the mental strength to overcome the injury is simply outstanding. The disappointment that he must have faced and overcome during his ill-fated comeback game in the reserves last year would have been enough to end a lot of players careers but not Manfredi. His return is not only a big moment for him but it could be a timely boost for Wigan in the absence of Burgess and Marshall.
Robert Kenyon: It’s fantastic to have Manfredi back, before he got injured I couldn’t wait to see how he went against the Aussies. The way he was progressing and the athleticism of the lad would have got him on the wing for England and he would have frightened the Australians to death, he’s like an rubber man who won’t be defeated.
I can’t wait to see him back in the cherry and white as along with Morgan Escare he is an exciting player to watch. It’ll take time to get him back to full confidence but he seems like a strong minded character and he will get that back for sure.
Jon Lyon: It’s hard to put into words what Dom has been through during the last two years. Watching Manfredi in full flight before his injury was an absolute joy. Surely there isn’t a Wigan, nay rugby league, fan anywhere that would begrudge Dom a try scoring return tonight, should he be picked against Wakefield.
I’m sure he will just be hoping to get through the game without any problems but hopefully his fully rehabilitated knee will be stronger than ever and he can get back to doing what he does best, flying in at the corner and returning the ball from kicks like a speeding train. Look out Tom Johnstone, Dom’s coming to get you!
Darren Wrudd: I will be over the moon to see Manfredi back on the park. I don’t want to see any players injured like that, whatever their club, but our star winger has been dealt a terrible run of luck with his road to recovery. Many a lesser man would have packed it all in and who could blame them but the strength of character Dom has shown to be patient and focused on the end of the journey which will in all likelihood be against Wakefield, highlights what a true professional this young man is.
I would suggest that he is akin to the best late season signing this club has seen for many a year as he will be like a brand new addition to our ranks. Good luck Dom and congratulations if you get the call.
David Bailey: It’s been a long hard road for Manfredi, and the emergence of Liam Marshall and Tom Davies has meant that he hasn’t been as sorely missed (performance wise) than he could have been. It’s a timely boost not only for the player but for the Warriors as well with Joe Burgess and Liam Marshall taking up their place on the treatment table. Hopefully Manfredi can pick up where he left off and leave his injury troubles behind, after all he was in the dream team despite missing a huge chunk of the season before his injury.
In the Qualifiers, are Widnes doomed?
Sean Lawless: Widnes were doomed from the moment they decided to let Denis Betts leave the club, if anything the current form perhaps shows how good a job Betts was doing! They have zero confidence and now that Francis Cummings has decided to question his players’ appetite for a fight, they are well and truly doomed. Poor old Anthony Gelling, I wonder where he will now end up in 2019.
Robert Kenyon: Definitely. Since they got rid of Denis Betts they haven’t won a game, they have some tough games coming up with Leeds, Hull KR and the buoyant Toronto, the only game I see them winning is the Halifax game, probably. At the end of the day it may not spell disaster as everyone thinks, nobody knows what the Super League structure will look like next season anyway, so they’re not entirely doomed but they won’t finish in the top four of the middle eights that’s for sure.
Jon Lyon: In short, yes. They look utterly bereft of ideas and even Francis Cummins seems to have no clue what he can do to stop the rot. It’s a shame they aren’t due to play Hull, the only team who seem to have even less of an idea on the pitch at the moment.
It’s hard to see them picking up enough points to even make the Million Pound Game, and already it seems the vultures are circling around their better players. The future is bleak for
Widnes for this season and next and it will be a long road back to Super League for them.
Darren Wrudd: Poor Widnes, I am sorry to say that I cannot see a way out of their predicament. In bad runs of form over recent years, Denis Betts has rallied their players and they have reacted well. I still think it was wrong of Widnes to show Betts the door as I think he was their only chance of staying in the top flight.
What we are now left with are a squad of players who have no belief in themselves. Their body language is awful and they look beaten before the games get going.
Not sure what the solution is but it will need to be found in the Championship next year.
David Bailey: I must admit, I thought both Salford and Widnes were doomed in the Qualifiers and the contrast between the two sides fortunes could not be starker. Salford and Ian Watson have thrived under the pressure whereas Widnes look to have crumbled.
It looks a huge mistake to have relieved Denis Betts of his position and I honestly can’t see anyway back for the Vikings.
Anthony Gelling will be rethinking his plans for next season and you have to worry about how Widnes will survive long term as there seems to be quite a few sides ahead of them on the pitch in the Championship.
Journalists have received their DreamTeam voting forms - without explaining your choices, what would your XIII be?
Sean Lawless: Ben Barba; Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, Bill Tupou, Josh Charnley; Danny Richardson, Jonny Lomax; Luke Thompson, James Roby, Sam Moa, John Bateman, Willie Isa, Sean O’Loughlin
Robert Kenyon: Ben Barba; Tom Johnstone, Mark Percival, Bryson Goodwin, Josh Charnley; Danny Richardson, Josh Drinkwater; Scott Taylor, James Roby, Sam Moa, Matty Ashurst, John Bateman, Harvey Livett
Jon Lyon: Sam Tomkins; Tommy Makinson, Bill Tupou, Jake Connor, Tom Johnstone; Jacob Miller, Danny Richardson; David Fifita, Paul McShane, Luke Thompson, John Bateman, Matty Ashurst, Greg Bird
Darren Wrudd: Stefan Ratchford; Josh Charnley, Oliver Gildart, Mark Percival, Tom Davies; Chris Atkin, Thomas Leuluai; Tony Clubb, James Roby, Remi Casty, John Bateman, Willie Isa, Sean O’Loughlin
David Bailey: Tony Gigot, Josh Charnley, Mark Percival, Bill Tupou, Tom Johnstone; Jacob Miller, Danny Richardson; Luke Thompson, Paul McShane, Tony Clubb, Zeb Taia, John Bateman, Sean O’Loughlin