To many of us, as supporters, it would probably appear to be a cruel twist in the fixture arrangements for us to be turning out against the likes of St Helens and Wigan, in consecutive weeks, and particularly so, on this occasion after having had such a challenging encounter, last Thursday, in the first of these.
Not so, however, Head Coach, Ian Watson. He is most gratified with the way the fixture list has unfolded in this respect, as he explains.
Watson said: “I think this is a good one for us after the way the St Helens game went. It’s going to be all about our performance now, on the back of last week, with the opportunity to right a few wrongs, because we felt, as a team, that we fell short of the standards that we have set ourselves. All the boys know that we are much better than that.”
The slightly longer than usual week of Thursday to Friday has consequently been of benefit to them all in getting to grips with this.
“We have really stripped things down to the basics, as much for personnel issues as anything else, and focused on the fundamentals. St Helens, last week. just ran a lot harder than we did, fought hard to play the ball quickly, and the speed of the game then became too quick for us.
“We had spoken about controlling this in order to prevent it happening, which we have been very good at doing in most games, but for the first time this season their pack managed to get the better of ours. Our pack has been outstanding all year, but we are going to be up against a big physical side again this week, which is going to be a good game to have after last week.”
There can be no gainsaying the quality of St Helens, however, who shrugged off the sending off of Matty Lees, to produce try-scoring opportunities throughout the whole game, regardless of their numerical inferiority.
“Saints are a great team this season and have played with consistency throughout the year. They use their speed and quality of execution to play on your edges, where you’ve got the spaces, but that was down to us just losing the speed of the game, and, in particular, the speed of the ruck. Once you lose that, it does not matter whether they have twelve men or thirteen, you are going to be on the back foot and getting caught out wide.”
It is most remarkable how the team went from a great performance against Wakefield, to the one we experienced against St Helens, which shows just how far the pendulum can swing in one week only. It now just has swing back, as quickly.
“It will all be down to performance, and our attitude in the approach to this game. If that is right the result will take care of itself.
“We have a very small squad, and at the moment we have around only nineteen to twenty fully fit players from whom to select.
“It is our job, as coaches, though, to work with the squad we’ve got to ensure that we qualify for the Super 8s, at the end of the season. Wigan away, on Friday night, is the perfect opportunity to put things right and put our reputation back out there for people to see.”