Opposition Profile: Wigan Warriors

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com - 13/02/2020 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - Wigan Warriors v Toronto Wolfpack - DW Stadium, Wigan, England - Wigan's Morgan Smithies celebrates the win.

St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium plays host to this week’s round of Betfred Super League fixtures. The Rhinos face off against Wigan Warriors to close Sunday’s double header, kick off 6:30pm.

Find out more about Adrian Lam’s side below:


Overview

Despite missing out on a Grand Final spot in 2019, Wigan Warriors have come back stronger for 2020, with a more experienced squad that is again overseen by head coach Adrian Lam, who signed a one year extension last year.

Having languished at the bottom end of the table for a large part of 2019, the Cherry and Whites turned their form around to finish in the Play Offs. This season, Lam’s side started strongly prior to lockdown, sitting top of the table with four wins and two losses. The last time they were top of Super League after six rounds was in 2010, a year in which they won the Super League trophy.

The Steve Prescott Man of Steel, Jackson Hastings, has fit right into Adrian Lam’s attack, combining well with Thomas Leuluai, Sam Powell and Bevan French – who has been in top form since his move from NRL side Parramatta Eels. George Burgess was another star name drafted back to the UK from South Sydney, whilst the likes of youngsters Morgan Smithies, Chris Hankinson and Harry Smith have held their places in the 21 man squads.

Former Rhino Zak Hardaker has been accurate with the boot so far in 2020, kicking 26 goals.

The Warriors opened the season with a 16-10 win over Warrington on home soil in January and went on to pick up further points against Hull FC, Huddersfield and Hull KR. Only Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils inflicted defeats on Lam’s side – the latter edging the Cherry and Whites 18-14 before lockdown.

They returned to action last Sunday and the Warriors regained first place with a 23-22 win over Wakefield Trinity; Harry Smith dropping a late one pointer.


Last Time Out

Wigan returned to Super League action last Sunday with a 23-22 win over Wakefield Trinity. Click on the image to watch the highlights.

Despite leading comfortably for most of last week’s game, a late Harry Smith drop goal was required to beat Wakefield Trinity 23-22. Zak Hardaker, Bevan French and Liam Marshall scored to give Wigan a 16-6 lead at the break and Jake Bibby extended their advantage to 16 points shortly after. But a late fightback from Trinity closed the score to 22-16, prompting Harry Smith into slotting a drop goal to secure victory for the Warriors.


Key Players

JACKSON HASTINGS

Position: Scrum Half

NRL Appearances: 52

Super League Tries: 13

International: Great Britain (3 Apps)

Bio: The current Man of Steel Jackson Hastings has seamlessly transitioned into the Cherry and Whites squad, bringing both creative flair and important leadership. As shown at the weekend, he’s developing his kicking game alongside his running threat, threading a grubber kick through for Liam Marshall’s try.

BEVAN FRENCH

Position: Full Back

Career Appearances: 64

Former Clubs: Parramatta Eels

Selected for the Indigenous All Stars match twice

Bio: French is an important part to Adrian Lams’s squad with his electric pace. He scored a week after he made his debut in 2019 and has since made the full back spot his own, scoring four tries so far in 2020.


Previous Meetings

Identified at the start of every season as a highlight fixture, matches between Leeds and Wigan have been exciting for home, away and neutral spectators.

Leeds’ 70-0 thrashing of the Warriors in 2005 is a stand out Super League clash; five players scoring twice (Rob Burrow, Ben Walker, Barrie McDermott, Mark Calderwood and Danny McGuire) as the Rhinos reached 70 points for a second week running in the league. Keith Senior and Ali Lauitiiti also scored in front of their home crowd. Leeds’ biggest win at Wigan came three years later; Brent Webb and Lee Smith the stand out players in a 52-18 result.

Wigan won the first meeting against the two sides at the start of Super League in 1996 40-20, and went on to win the next three regular season matches. In 2001, the year Wigan lifted the Super League trophy for a second time, the Warriors beat Leeds three times. Steve Renouf touched down twice in 42-6 and 36-18 wins while former Rhino hooker Terry Newton scored a brace in a 38-18 result.

Danny McGuire has scored the most tries out of any Leeds player against St Helens. The winger has scored 14 times including two Grand Final tries (2008 and 2011).

Wigan’s home form is far superior to most teams in Super League, with the DW Stadium regarded as a fortress. Since 2014, they haven’t been beaten by Leeds at home; a notable result during that time coming in 2017 when the Warriors nilled a young Rhinos side as Leeds prepared for a Challenge Cup semi final against Hull FC.

Last Ten Meetings vs Leeds

Leeds Rhinos 14 Wigan Warriors 23 (Round 18, 14/06/19)

Wigan Warriors 34 Leeds Rhinos 16 (Round 2, 8/2/19) 

Wigan Warriors 46 Leeds Rhinos 8 (Round 19, 28/6/18) 

Leeds Rhinos 08 Wigan Warriors 09 (Round 11, 13/04/18)

Leeds Rhinos 32 Wigan Warriors 16 (Super 8s, 04/08/17)

Wigan Warriors 34 Leeds Rhinos 0 (Round 23, 21/7/17) 

Leeds Rhinos 26 Wigan Warriors 18 (Round 7, 31/03/17) 

Leeds Rhinos 18 Wigan Warriors 16 (Round 22, 15/07/16)

Leeds Rhinos 8, Wigan Warriors 40 (Magic Weekend, 21/5/16) 

Wigan Warriors 28 Leeds Rhinos 6 (Round 5, 11/3/16)


Record against Leeds

Nearly 220 league matches have been played between Leeds and Wigan since records began and the Cherry and Whites have the most wins (128 to 81). That record replicates Wigan’s Super League form, winning 40 matches (34 regular season, five playoffs and one Grand Final). The last time Leeds beat the Warriors was in the 2017 Super 8s, with Wigan winning both home and away matches against the Rhinos for the last two years.

In Super League, Leeds have 23 league wins (29 if you include the 2015 Grand Final and five Play Off clashes). The only season Leeds have won both home and away games against the Warriors was in 1998 but most of their wins have come at Headingley (14), due to the Warriors keeping the DW Stadium a fortress over recent seasons (Leeds’ last win coming their in 2013).

There have also been nine draws, four of which have come in Super League. In 2003, there were two 24-24 draws that both happened at Headingley; Mark Calderwood scoring a hat trick in the first. A year later, Andy Farrell kicked a penalty goal to secure a 12-12 stalemate at the DW stadium, after Danny McGuire had brought Leeds back from 8-0 down to lead, and in 2011, at Headingley, both sides had to settle for a point in a 22 all result.


Head to Head


Last Game Against the Rhinos

The last time Leeds met Wigan in Super League, the Warriors got the better of the home side to win 23-14. Despite Liam Sutcliffe kicking an early penalty, Oliver Gildart’s try got the Warriors on the front foot. Leeds’ ill discipline gave Chris Hankinson the chance to extend that lead further, kicking two penalties before Adam Cuthbertson’s try put the Rhinos back in the match. Sam Powell dropped a one-pointer on half time but Trent Merrin charged his way under the post to put Leeds in the lead again. Oli Partington turned the game back in Wigan’s favour and a Tony Clubb try sealed the win for the Cherry and Whites on the full time hooter.