Wakefield v St Helens: Three key battles in Trinity's Super 8s clash with Saints
By Tom Mordey | Twitter: @TomMordey |
Last Updated: 07/09/17 8:25pm
It's crunch time in the battle for the top four as Wakefield face St Helens on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Arena, and a Trinity win would end Saints' season.
Will Wakefield stay on course for a top four spot? Or will St Helens make things that little bit more interesting? Here's three head-to-heads that might decide it:
Bill Tupou v Tommy Makinson
Wakefield's wingers have had some season. Chris Chester has Bill Tupou, Ben Jones-Bishop and Mason Caton-Brown all currently available out wide and that's without the injured Tom Johnstone.
Tupou currently occupies one of the spots on the wing having moved from his regular centre position where he's played the majority of the season. And he's a metre making machine.
Tupou is second on Trinity's metre list with 2,583m from his 283 carries and that's at a remarkable 9.13m a drive. Such hard running has brought him 11 tries, with 18 clean breaks and 40 tackle busts, all figures that rank near the top of Wakefield's rankings. And he's just signed a new three-year contract. An important cog in Wakefield's dangerous backline.
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It's been good to see Tommy Makinson going through a full season after his injury horror show in 2016. But he'll be disappointed with his strike rate this season, crossing just five times in Super League, a far cry from the record he's usually posting.
But Makinson has been filling in across the backline, switching between the wing and full-back and also featuring a couple of times at centre during the campaign.
With Ben Barba now competing with Jonny Lomax for the number one slot, Makinson needs to perform out wide. His carries are always excellent, indeed Makinson is second only to Alex Walmsley in terms of metres made this season for St Helens, carrying 355 times for 2,870m. Will he start finding the try line before 2017 is out?
Tyler Randell v James Roby
Is Tyler Randell the man to force Wakefield over the line in the race for the top four? He signed from Newcastle Knights, originally for the 2018 season, but pushed his move forward to help out in the business end of this campaign. And what a debut he made against Salford.
He scored twice in that thumping win, came up with 26 tackles and also made 128 metres from dummy half at an average of 12.8m a run.
Randell has taken Kyle Wood's place in the side, but securing his signature is a sign that Wakefield are a club really going places: the hooker has made 44 appearances in the NRL since his debut in 2014. Randell says he's looking forward to tackling Super League, but will he help this Wakefield team make history?
If there's one man St Helens can count on to step up in the big games, it's James Roby. He produced a man-of-the-match display in Saints' last win, the sensational performance against league leaders Castleford.
And with their season hanging in the balance, Justin Holbrook needs a similar display from him against Wakefield. It's no surprise to see Roby second in St Helens' tackle count, notching up 895 hits so far, while he's also carried for just under 2,000 metres at an average of 8.80m.
Teams know what damage he can cause from dummy half, running 182 times this season, unsurprisingly more than any other player in Super League. Will he take the game by the scruff of the neck on Thursday night?
Danny Kirmond v Jon Wilkin
If there's one man that deserves success in a Wakefield shirt, it's the captain Danny Kirmond. So long a cornerstone of the Trinity pack, the second-row has worked tirelessly for the side since his move from Huddersfield in 2012.
He's spent parts of this season on the sidelines or the bench following a few injuries, but his stats still back up plenty of hard work. Kirmond has scored five tries, made 524 tackles and carried 172 times for over 1,000 metres. Will the captain be able to lead his side into the semi-finals and perhaps even all the way to Old Trafford?
If St Helens can count on James Roby to step up, then Jon Wilkin is the other man they are able to reply on. The captain will pit his wits against Wakefield's skipper Kirmond in the back-row and they need a big display from him.
Wilkin's been churning out the stats again in 2017, topping the tackle count ahead of James Roby with 967 hits, a figure second only in the competition to tackling machine Danny Houghton. He's also carried 212 times for over 1,000 metres.
Interestingly, Wilkin is yet to score for St Helens this season, and the backrow has never failed to cross the whitewash in every campaign he's played for the club. What chance a timely try from the captain to keep his side's hopes alive on Thursday?