Wigan Warriors and St Helens face off in the Super League Grand Final on Friday evening; watch live on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 7.30pm
By Sky Sports Rugby League
Last Updated: 26/11/20 10:39pm
Sky Sports’ team of rugby league experts give their views and predictions ahead of Friday’s Super League Grand Final between reigning champions St Helens and League Leaders’ Shield winners Wigan Warriors…
Phil Clarke (Sky Sports rugby league expert)
One of the great things about the Grand Final is that it always seems to attract some new eyeballs to the sport, and it is great that we have two such entertaining teams to showcase rugby league at its best. The fact that they scored 13 tries to beat their opponents last week is evidence of their attacking brilliance.
However, when they met at the end of October, it took almost 30 minutes before we had a single point. The reason why they are playing in the last match of the season is because both of them recognise that what they do without ball in hand is equally as important as what they do with it.
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Big games are very often won by big characters, and we are lucky to have two modern-day legends going head to head in this one in Sean O’Loughlin and James Graham. But sport moves on and new heroes emerge.
I wonder, will James Bentley end the year looking like the next John Bateman? Is Morgan Knowles a newer version of O’Loughlin or will Morgan Smithies take that crown? Perhaps the two most consistent players for the last 10 years in Super League will determine the outcome – would you rather have James Roby or Liam Farrell in your engine room?
The winners sometimes need to gamble – playing it safe will not hand you the trophy. It is a night for the bold and brave and I can’t wait.
Prediction: St Helens to win.
Barrie McDermott (Sky Sports rugby league expert)
In this most unpredictable year, we have a Grand Final that has a very familiar feel to it. Saints have played in it and won it, as have Wigan.
Both teams have the ability to beat the other and last time they met it was the best game we have witnessed in 2020. Both were outstanding in their semi-finals too, versus Catalans and Hull FC respectively.
At the start of the year, Saints were out of sorts because of the World Club Challenge and the last game we watched pre-lockdown saw them beaten by Castleford. However, they came back out of lockdown refocused and recalibrated
Wigan have gone slowly about their business without hitting their straps until the perfect moment. Adrian Lam, who is the 2020 coach of the year, will have his side prepared for an attritional war.
This has all the hallmarks of a classic. The question is, will it be Sean O’Loughlin or James Graham lifting the trophy in the last match of their illustrious careers?
Prediction: Wigan to win.
Jon Wells (Sky Sports rugby league expert)
One of the major sub-plots to this Grand Final is that Wigan and St Helens are the worst of enemies and this in its own as a regular-round fixture is a fiercely fought-over contest.
In a Grand Final though, I think for St Helens it’s about retaining the crown. The most difficult thing when you reach the top of the mountain is staying there and that will be their motivation.
Since Wigan were defeated in the Challenge Cup semi-finals by Leeds though, something has happened, and something has clicked. They’ve got Sean O’Loughlin leading them with Thomas Leuluai and I think it’s all set up for that finale.
They’ve been exceptional since that semi-final defeat and they’ve beaten all that’s come before them, and I’d have to put the small amount of money I have on Wigan.
Prediction: Wigan to win.
Brian Carney (Sky Sports rugby league presenter)
I really don’t think there is going to be anything in this Grand Final and if it blows out either way, I will fall off my stool.
Wigan finished first and St Helens finished second, but in my eyes, with the season we’ve had, they’re both equally as good – and that’s not taking anything away from the Warriors winning the League Leaders’ Shield.
So contrived was the end of the season, I think both sides would recognise they are equally the best sides in the competition, and they both have great stars across the field. I cannot split these sides.
I would say St Helens have probably got the edge in attack, and they have more way and more places to hurt you there if it clicks for them.
However, the winning and losing of the game is in the big guys in the middle.
Prediction: This has golden point extra-time written all over it.
Jenna Brooks (Sky Sports rugby league reporter)
We’ve made it – and could we have asked for a better Grand Final? First versus second, the league leaders against the reigning champions and the two best defensive teams in the competition.
What a contest it promises to be, with incredible matchups all over the park. At full-back, Bevan French against Lachlan Coote and at hooker, Sam Powell, who is expected back in the Wigan side after missing last week’s semi-final, taking on the genius that is James Roby.
There is good news for St Helens, with Alex Walmsley expected to be fit despite coming off early with a knee complaint in their semi-final win over Catalans Dragons and I expect the star prop to be instrumental for St Helens.
And then you turn your attention to the two retiring greats – Sean O’Loughlin and James Graham, both desperate to end their remarkable careers with that fairy-tale finish.
I believe this will be a Grand Final that will stand the test of time.