The biggest clash on the opening day of the Magic Weekend is the second game to take place as the rivals St Helens and Wigan Warriors meet in what should be a fantastic contest up at St James’ Park, one which could give us a dress rehearsal of the Grand Final later in the season.
These two go into the match in first and second in the Super League table respectively with Wigan having the chance to draw level with their bitter rivals on points with a win. Saints can open up what might be a defining four point lead in the race for the League Leaders’ Shield should they come out on top.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Mix channel with the build-up beginning shortly after the opening game finishes. Kick off for this one comes at 4.45pm.
St Helens are on top of the table once again but I think it is fair to say they don’t have that air of invincibility about them that they have had over the past two campaigns. The main reason for that is injuries haven’t been too kind to them. Another reason is that they have underperformed in a couple of big matches this season, not least in the Challenge Cup semi-final against this very opposition so there might be an air of revenge about the champions in this game.
Saints go into the match off the back of a rare Super League defeat last time out when they were edged out in a physical battle with the Catalans Dragons. That won’t have been ideal preparation for this match but this is a team who have played a number of huge occasions in recent seasons so they do at least have that in their advantage. Saints’ attacking output left a little to be desired last week and they’ll be hoping for better here.
Having already lifted one piece of silverware this season, the Wigan Warriors will be seeking more trophies between now and the end of the campaign and a win here would certainly unlock the door for the potential of another. When they won the Challenge Cup, Wigan excelled on a couple of big stages so playing in the big arena and expressing themselves will be something they will take confidence from into this one.
Wigan Warriors lost both of their matches in between the Challenge Cup semi-final and final but they have won the four Super League games since then and looked very good in the process. They have actually looked more and more assured the longer the campaign has gone on and you sense their big two of Jai Field and Bevan French have the perfect setting and stage to show all of their class. If they do then Wigan are going to take some beating.
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St Helens are going to be without Mark Percival and Tommy Makinson for this match which leaves them a little light within their backs although Konrad Hurrell is back from the injury which saw him miss last week which will help with that.
Wigan Warriors will be missing Thomas Leuluai for this Magic encounter but Matt Peet has named Cade Cust in the squad. Morgan Smithies is also available in what looks to be a first choice squad with the exception of Leuluai.
Form often goes out of the window in a derby match and in this one in particularly but the wide open expanses of St James’ Park could well play perfectly into the hands of the Wigan Warriors here. There are one or two holes in the St Helens side that Wigan’s big players can target in this match and I expect them to be better in the half-back combination too. St Helens gave plenty in their loss in France last week and although they have had time to recover from that if there is any jaded legs in the camp these conditions will find them out.
Saints won the Good Friday clash between these two but Makinson and Percival both scored tries that day and both will be missing here. Makinson is usually the goal kicker for St Helens too so they will need to replace the points he generates from there too, which in a tight match could make all the difference. Wigan look to be flying and I always think the team who has silverware in the bank can play with a bit more freedom and in the Saturday conditions I think they are the ones to beat here.
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