For the second time in a fortnight the Wigan Warriors and Salford Red Devils meet at the DW Stadium in the Super League play-offs, only on Friday night the stakes are much higher than their first meeting.
The winner of this match will be off to the bright light and the big night at Old Trafford while the losers will be watching the Grand Final from afar having fallen at the final hurdle so we can expect a really tough contest.
There is a change in the dynamic from the first meeting between these two in the play-offs. On that night the Wigan Warriors were the form horse going into it but they head into this semi-final off the back of a brutal beating from St Helens last week. It might be that they were blown away by a super power and they can get over that quickly, but at the same time it could be that the defeat has left a psychological blow which they can’t recover from.
If all things are equal, Wigan will expect to win this match. Their defence was ripped apart last week but it is usually incredibly strong and their attack is dynamic and decent enough to book their spot at another Grand Final. Almost more importantly than any skill set they have is the knowledge and nous they have of winning big knockout stages. They are regulars in these intense battles and that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Salford Red Devils
The tables might just be turned for the Salford Red Devils here. It is them going into the match off the back of a win courtesy of beating Castleford Tigers in a knockout match last week. That shouldn’t be forgotten because not only did they win that match but they kept the Tigers scoreless which takes some doing. That said, quite how much Castleford had left in the tank is open to debate but winning form is never a bad thing.
If Salford can bring that defensive structure and performance to the game here they would give themselves a chance because we know they have got tries in them. My big concern with them is that they are not used to the magnitude of the match they are about to be involved in. That is a clear disadvantage but certainly on the pitch and their skills they have what it takes to be competitive. They need to be at their best here.
Both sides make one change to their unit for this match. Wigan Warriors will recall centre Dan Sarginson. He comes back in for Joe Greenwood who misses out in the second meeting between these two in as many weeks.
Salford Red Devils have also made just the one change to their 19-man squad and that sees Josh Johnson coming in for Ryan Lennon but it could be that they are unchanged from their win over Castleford last week.
When these two sides met here in the opening week of the play-offs my bet was for Wigan Warriors to win by 1-12 points. That landed safely that night and I am heading in the same direction for a bet in this semi-final. I respect what Salford Red Devils have done this season but I just can’t get out of my head their lack of experience in these big matches.
The doubt would be whether Wigan’s beating by St Helens last week has left its mark on them but they are experienced enough to put that behind them I think. There is so much at stake here I would be surprised if we don’t see the best of both teams and if we do then Wigan are probably going to win a tight game once again.
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