RUGBY LEAGUE analyst Kaine Greenwood (@KaineG23) highlights the value for Friday night's second Super League semi-final between Wigan and Castleford.
Wigan v Castleford | Friday 5th October 2018, 19.45 | Sky Sports
The DW Stadium will witness it’s final game of rugby league for the season on Friday night, and while that’s sure to please some football fans, it will no doubt disappoint the rugby faithful as the Cherry and Whites have lost just one home game all campaign and rediscovered the kind form that has seen them grace four Grand Finals in five years.
It’s will be an emotional affair too with a host of players and coach Shaun Wane leaving the club at the conclusion of 2018. The Warriors are the first side in Super League history to go through this phase of the competition undefeated and what better way for the likes of Wane, John Bateman, Sam Tomkins and Ryan Sutton to depart than in a milestone 10th final.
Wigan will look to the departing Bateman – 14/1 BetVictor to be named Man of the Match – to get the pack firing in a game that will likely be decided by the biggest effort in defence (not that points are discounted!).
Bateman, the leading second-row in terms of metres (3150) and Super League’s most-prolific offloader with 64 to date, will also have the support of skipper Sean O'Loughlin who is returning from injury, as well as full-back Tomkins, prop Ben Flower and scrum-half Thomas Leuluai, and it is this base that tips the balance in Wigan’s favour (4/6 SkyBet).
Tigers unlikely to roll over
Opponents Castleford experienced Old Trafford for the first time in the 2017 showpiece after a stellar season and yet failed to produce in the final 80 minutes. Coach Daryl Powell stated at the time that this was something they wanted to avenge, and more occasions like that would benefit his side.
Despite a more turbulent year this time around, the Tigers could do that at the earliest opportunity with a win… possibly spearheaded by Paul McShane.
It seems a mystery to many rugby league fans how McShane hasn’t been recognised in the end-of-season award nominations, or rewarded with an England call-up. He might just be unlucky that James Roby was on the Steve Prescott Man of Steel list in the same position, but as soon as he was ruled out of international action it was a surprise not to see the Castleford man replace him.
McShane to impress
Perhaps he can carry that as motivation into the game as Cas will need him to produce his best after the loss of Jake Trueman in the halves to a hand injury.
The Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year winner stepped up to the task superbly when Powell’s side had to cope without talisman Luke Gale in the middle of the field and although Ben Roberts will probably step in with his flair and unpredictability the durability of the number nine will be key to any back-to-back final appearance, in my view.
McShane’s defensive efforts as the top tackler in 2018 – 95 more tackles than any other player – have always put him at the heart of the action but without Trueman and forward battering-ram Junior Moors, it is likely he will be asked to take a more active role throughout the game, specifically with darting runs to disrupt a defensive unit that has only given up 50 points in the last six matches.
What to expect on Friday night
Castleford held form well in the Super 8s with five wins, scoring 28 or more in each, but book-ended things with defeat to the hosts (24-22) and last week’s showing at St. Helens (26-0).
The previous two meetings of Wigan and Castleford have both been very tight encounters – one and two-point victories for the home side – illustrating this will be no easy task for Wane’s men, even if the do hold the upper-hand in experience and head-to-head results.
But the Tigers play an expansive style of rugby which means they will always create chances but will also invariably give one or two up in the process – the total points scored in Castleford games this season (1349) was the third-highest in the top-eight.
As an example to the above, in the first round of the 8s Wigan were able to hit the lead early and set a platform with four first-half tries from errors, putting them in control, and despite dominating the second-half the Black and Amber didn’t quite have enough to claw things back.
Eden to cross the whitewash
Despite only playing in around 1/3 of games this season, Greg Eden has slotted back into his position on the wing as if 2017’s tally of 38 tries is still achievable in the (possible) 160 minutes left to play.
Eden currently has 18 in 14 overall and has claimed 12 four-point efforts in the last half-dozen games, making him a clear bet when it comes how the away side continue to put scores on the board (13/10 Bet365).
The Cherry and Whites (4/6 SkyBet), all things considered, are better set for this game in terms of personnel and I’m happy to support them further based on Castleford’s record against the top-sixsides this season: W8-L7 with a negative points differential of -14.
Wigan, on the other hand, show W10-L6 from the same group of games and have a +117 for-and-against. Both sides have scored a similar amount (Wigan 355, Castleford 324) but the 102-gap between the two on their own line says enough for me.
Wigan v Castleford – Wigan to win (4/6 SkyBet)
Wigan v Castleford – Greg Eden to score a try at anytime (13/10 Bet365)
Wigan v Castleford – Paul McShane to score a try at anytime (11/2 Bet365)
Wigan v Castleford – John Bateman to be Man of the Match (14/1 BetVictor)
Wigan v Castleford – Paul McShane to be Man of the Match (8/1 Ladbrokes)