Garry Schofield: Wigan could “humiliate” St Helens

I imagine that all we’ll hear from the pundits tomorrow is that the Super League Grand Final will be close and very difficult to call.

It’s first versus second, a local derby and finals are supposed to be tight games with few risks taken.

I think most pundits will tip Wigan, but they’ll probably also say how close it’ll be.

Not for me.

Wigan will win, and they’ll win comfortably. They may even create a modern-day version of the 1989 Wembley final in which they famously humiliated Saints 27-0.
When you look at the most important areas on the field, Wigan have a clear advantage in every single one.

Shaun Wane's men are too strong for St Helens, says Schoey
Shaun Wane’s men are too strong for St Helens, says Schoey

If Saints were at full strength, this column might read a bit differently. But, although they’ve come through the play-offs unscathed after a poor end to the regular season, they cannot beat Wigan as things stand.

Saints’ best hope is that Wigan’s incredible game against Warrington will have taken a lot out of them.

It was an unbelievable, edge-of-the-seat contest and Warrington will kick themselves throughout the off-season for not winning.

But the reality is that playing St Helens is a step down for the Warriors after the Wolves. On the other hand, playing Wigan will be a huge step up for the Saints, after having played home games against the fourth and seventh-ranked teams in recent weeks.

Warrington tested Wigan in a way that St Helens won’t. They played a lot of off-the-cuff stuff and Matty Russell was superb. He is going to be some player.

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But I always fancied Wigan. No one in Super League can beat them at the moment and I just can’t see any way in which St Helens can do it.

Their forwards are nowhere near good enough to match Wigan’s in either mobility or go-forward.

I like the Saints props Alex Walmsley and Kyle Amor very much, but overall Wigan will field the better forwards on Saturday, including those on the bench, and even though there’s little between hookers James Roby and Mike McIlorum, the Saints hooker will enjoy little go-forward.

And then there’s the creativity problem for Saints. I know I’ve mentioned this a lot in the last month and I know they’ve proved me wrong in making it this far, but I can’t see how they can rack up the tries against Shaun Wane’s men.

They simply can’t win a Grand Final with Mark Flanagan at scrum-half.

They just won’t cause Wigan any problems and Matty Smith, who really should have been on the Man of Steel shortlist, and Blake Green will get the better of Saints in the halves. It’s unfortunate for Saints that they’ve lost Luke Walsh and Jonny Lomax but that’s the way the game goes sometimes.

In the outside backs you’d have to fancy Wigan too because they have better players who will get better service. Joe Burgess looks an amazing talent, and so does Dan Sarginson, his centre partner. I am very glad these two talented threequarters are in the England squad.

Saints have a couple of excellent young wingers who are very exciting to watch, but I fear that Tommy Makinson and Adam Swift will be doing mainly defensive work and that when they do touch the ball it’ll be dummy-half drives coming off their own line. They’ll be feeding off scraps all day.

Everyone at Wigan will be up for this and they’ll look to humiliate St Helens.

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You could see what Waney thinks of Saints when he referred to them as “them” after his side’s win over Warrington. This really could be a modern-day 27-0 – and what I mean by that is it could be a game which Saints fans have nightmares about for a long time.

Saints also have to overcome the mental scars of being the perennial Old Trafford losers, whereas Wigan won there last year and also in 2010.

The Warriors are a very well balanced team, and at the moment Saints are far from that. Wigan can glide through the gears and do the fancy stuff, but they’ll also spoil and niggle and upset St Helens. They are superior all over the park.

Having spoken to a few St Helens fans after the Huddersfield game at the end of the regular season, they knew they were playing poorly. Even though they beat Cas and the Dragons quite comfortably, I think few of their supporters will travel to Old Trafford with much confidence.

My tip is Wigan by at least 20 and my man-of-the-match prediction is Matty Smith.