|World Club Challenge
Wigan Warriors v Cronulla Sharks
Monday, February 20, 2am (AEDT), DW Stadium, Wigan
|Best Bet: Wigan +8 ($1.90)|
The World Club Challenge sees Super League champs Wigan go in as outsiders against NRL premiers Cronulla, in what shapes as potentially a low-scoring gritty affair.
Wigan have lost Dan Sarginson and Josh Charnley, while Sam Tonkins, Matty Smith and Michael Mcllorum will all miss the clash with Cronulla due to injury. Cronulla have three absentees from the grand-final winning side, with Ben Barba off to rugby, while Valentine Holmes (injured) and Michael Ennis (retired) leave a few holes to fill in the Sharks side.
Wigan have won the World Club Challenge three times, with their last victory coming in 1994 when they defeated the Brisbane Broncos 20-14. They’ve also finished runner-up on three ocasions, with losses in 1992, 2011 and 2014. This will be Cronulla’s first World Club Challenge after ending a 43-year drought by winning the NRL premiership last season. Australian clubs have won seven of the last eight World Club Challenges.
Wigan started the Super League with a 26-16 win over Salford. The Warriors led 26-0 at half-time before taking off the brakes, allowing Salford to score 16 unanswered points. Cronulla won just one of their three matches at the Auckland Nines in their first hitout since their inaugural premiership.
The battle of the halves will definitely be of interest here, especially with Matty Smith out for Wigan, but The Wolf is keen to see how Liam Farrell and Wade Graham match-up. Farrell was one of Wigan’s best in the win over Salford, with 21 carries for 191 metres and 6 tackle breaks. He has the ability to do the hard stuff but also create opportunitIes for his outside men, similar to Wade Graham. Graham had an outstanding 2016 that saw him earn a sky blue jersey and he didn’t look out of place in the Origin arena. He’s a constant threat on the fringes and if this is a gritty affair as expected, he’ll have a key role to play.
Australian sides have a strong recent record in the World Club Challenge, winning seven of the past eight. Wigan is a proud club and The Wolf can’t see this one getting away from them. The Sharks team will struggle without Michael Ennis, who is a massive loss and this is uncommon ground for them. The Sharks defence is a tough nut to crack and they’ll grind this one out in their favour.
How It’s Shaping Up
Cronulla by 4
Wigan +8 ($1.90)