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Craig Porter 2nd Oct 2009 - 13:36

The Long goodbye could be curtains for Wigan

Arch-rivals St Helens and Wigan Warriors meet in Saturday's Super League play-off where Sean Long will be making his last appearance at Knowsley Road.

Many rugby league followers fancy Wigan, the 11/8 outsiders to win in 80 minutes, to put one over on their neighbours and they have just cause.

Ignoring the dead-rubber that they lost to Huddersfield on the last day of the regular season, the Warriors have only lost one game in their last eleven Super League outings since they suffered a shock defeat to bottom-of-the-pile Celtic Crusaders back in June.

Brian Noble's side have hit the play-offs in fine form and, for the first time in years, his players are generally fit as opposed to the walking wounded that have fallen to Leeds at this stage of the competition for the last couple of years. Noble has an 80% success rate in Super League play-offs and he would love to end his reign at Wigan with at least a Grand Final appearance. Wigan are creating plenty of scoring chances and their defensive efforts are impressive.

So just two defeats in the last twelve. Once to Huddersfield in a nothing game - and the other? Who else but St Helens? Great defence from Wigan looked to have earned them their first win at Knowsley Road since 2003. Leading 6-4, with just one tackle to make before the turnover that would have seen Wigan be able to run the clock down in possession, one of the brightest young stars in Super League slipped through to clinch a win.

Kyle Eastmond is 14/1 to score the last try of this encounter too and is just one of a team full of talented players that warrant the 8/15 favourtism to win the match. Leon Pryce (also 14/1 first or last scorer) is elusive behind the ruck, Ade Gardner (10/1), Francis Meli (12/1) and Matt Gidley (14/1) are hard to contain out wide.

With Sean Long aided by two of the best hookers around, in Keiron Cunningham and James Roby controlling the play you start to wonder why Wigan looked like they had a chance. Long will want nothing more than to show up his hometown club that let him go all those years ago as he makes his final appearance in front of his loyal fans.

St Helens can score from anything and anywhere, proved by Tony Puletua (20/1 first or last) being their second highest try scorer. Wigan will certainly have their work cut out and need the four-point headstart they receive in the main handicap which is just one of a range of 35 markets available on the game.

It will be a close game and it is tempting to back both St Helens and Wigan to win by a 1-5 points winning margin at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Wigan may not have won at St Helens for six years but in the eight matches played there since there have been two draws - 18/1 for the match to end level looks to be too big.


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