Wigan clash on our minds - Wood
Warrington’s long-serving forward Paul Wood admits the Wolves players have one eye on their table-topping showdown with Wigan Warriors as they prepare for tomorrow’s clash with Catalan Dragons in Perpignan.
The Wolves are breathing down the necks of the Warriors and their meeting in the penultimate round of the regular Engage Super League campaign at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Sunday, September 4, is being billed as a League Leaders’ Shield decider.
Wigan’s main focus will be on next Saturday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup final against Leeds Rhinos at Wembley but the north west derby will be Warrington’s next match after the trip to France and Wood says it is difficult not to think about it.
“It’s no secret that, if we win all our games, we finish top of the league,” he said.
“Everyone knows the Wigan is going to be massive. We jump ahead of them if we beat them.
“We’re not thinking about it too much but it’s logged there at the back of the head that it would be a massive stride to getting to Old Trafford and winning the League Leaders’ Shield.”
Before then, Warrington will be looking to break new ground by winning for the first time at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
They have won two previous away games against the Dragons but those victories came at Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium and at Perpignan’s Stade Aime Giral.
The Catalans, who pulled off a stunning 22-20 win at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in April, will be looking to bounce back from their heaviest defeat of the season, a 40-8 rout at Hull FC a week ago, and maintain their top-four challenge.
Warrington must continue their bid for top spot without injured full-back Brett Hodgson and second rower Ben Westwood but Wood believes the club have the depth in talent to offset the blows.
“Both Bennie and Brett have been outstanding for us this year but the good thing about this club is that the lads coming in are not going to let us down,” he said.
“Chris Riley is going to slot in at full-back and he was Warrington’s top tryscorer last year. He’s just not had his chance this year.”
Castleford Tigers coach Terry Matterson is calling on his players to “stop feeling sorry for themselves” ahead of tomorrow’s crucial derby at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
The Tigers are in danger of losing their play-off spot after conceding 102 points in their last two league matches and are still coming to terms with their heart-breaking extra-time defeat by Leeds in the Challenge Cup semi-final.
With their last two regular fixtures against play-off rivals Hull and Hull KR - the teams just below them in the table - Matterson knows a win against bottom-of-the-table Wakefield is vital.
“We strung together three wins so we had some momentum and we got knocked about,” he said.
“We have to get over that. We have given ourselves a good opportunity to play some semi-final football and it would be a shame to see it go out of the window because of the Challenge Cup defeat.
“The challenge is to put that behind us. We can keep feeling sorry for ourselves or we can get back to what we’ve been doing that has put us in this position.”
In tomorrow’s other game, Leeds meet Harlequins RL in their last match before Wembley and coach Brian McDermott has taken the precaution of resting forwards Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Ryan Bailey.
The sixth-placed Rhinos still have their sights on snatching fourth spot, as they did 12 months ago, while Harlequins must be willing the season to end after losing their last six matches.
The Londoners began the post-McDermott period in sensational fashion by winning their opening three matches, including a 36-26 triumph at Headingley, to top the table but they have won just twice since then and the Leeds boss has sympathy for his old club.
“They have had a tough season with injuries and a limited resource,” he said.
“It was always going to be a tough season for Quins with the squad they have.
“I’m feeling for them at the moment but I am certain they will show up this weekend and try and do the double over Leeds.”