Wigan looking to clinch leaders shield
Shaun Wane expects to clinch his first silverware as Wigan head coach when the Warriors take on Hull KR at Craven Park tomorrow.
Wigan need one win from their last two matches to secure the Stobart Super League leaders shield for the second time in three years.
And Wane, who was assistant to Michael Maguire in their 2010 triumph, has made no secret over how much it would mean to him.
“The league leaders shield is important to us and this is one game we really want to get over the line and get the two points,” he said.
“Being the most consistent team over the year is really important to me. Our points difference record is fantastic and, if we perform how we have trained this week, we will be okay for Sunday.”
If successful tomorrow, the Warriors will be presented with the trophy after next Friday’s last game of the regular season against St Helens at the DW Stadium, otherwise that match will help determine top spot.
Hull KR have not given up hope of snatching the eighth play-off spot but they have won just one of their last eight matches and are without influential stand-off Blake Green, who is expected to join Wigan next season as the replacement for fellow Australian Brett Finch.
Warrington Wolves, who are three points behind Wigan, can expect a heroes’ return to the Halliwell Jones Stadium when they play Huddersfield Giants tomorrow, a week after their Carnegie Challenge Cup final triumph.
The Giants need one more win to make sure of their place in the play-offs for the fifth consecutive year and new coach Paul Anderson says they are determined to ruin the Wolves’ party.
“Hopefully it will be a full stadium because they will be bringing the trophy home and we want to enjoy that atmosphere and use it to go out and perform,” he said.
Huddersfield have won three of their last 12 league games and lost 33-6 to Warrington in the cup semi-final but Wolves coach Tony Smith believes his old club remain a dangerous threat.
“We understand that the Giants are a team that have gone through a lot of change,” he said.
“They are a tough team with some terrific players which makes for a very dangerous fixture for us.”
The battle to avoid the wooden spoon will be concentrated on a seven-mile radius in West Yorkshire tomorrow.
Widnes Vikings, currently in bottom spot, go to play-off hopefuls Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the evening, four hours after fellow strugglers Castleford Tigers host high-flying Catalan Dragons.
Emotions could help Castleford end their five-match losing run, with at least six players making their final home appearances for the club, and coach Ian Millward admits his team will not lack motivation.
“There are some things we want to test drive in this game,” said Millward, who has endured a difficult first season at the Probiz Coliseum.
“There are guys finishing up that want to end their careers on a high and we need to produce a performance to repay the faith our fans have shown this year. The stakes are still high.”
Widnes won only two matches in the first half of their first season back in Super League but four wins in their last 10 games have given coach Denis Betts renewed hope.
“Two wins probably moves us up two places and that would be a really good achievement after a bit of a surge in the second half of the year,” Betts said.
Wakefield coach Richard Agar is being tipped as an outsider for coach of the year after turning the unfancied Wildcats into play-off contenders.
They are on a roll with five straight wins but Agar is wary of going into tomorrow’s game as favourites.
“We’re going to be playing a team that have definitely improved over the course of the year,” he said.
“We’ve watched more video footage of Widnes than normal because they’ve changed their team since round one when we last played them and they’ve got a strong motivation to finish off the bottom of the league.
“That would be a remarkable testament to them. At the start of the competition, finishing off the bottom might have been a goal for both our clubs.
“We’ve more than exceeded expectations and I’m sure that, if they can get the one win if not two, they will see it as a real success.”