The definition of a derby within sport is ‘a sporting event between two teams from the same town, city or region’ and the distance between the two clubs entertaining rugby league fans on Thursday night is one of the closest the Betfred Super League has to offer. Adrian Lam's Leigh Leopards host Matt Peet's Wigan Warriors at Leigh Sports Village in the first of three 'Battle of the Borough's' this season.
Fun fact, there are only two sporting events that have ever officially been named as ‘derbies’, with the 19th Earl of Derby confirming that the Epsom Derby and Wigan-Saints as the two to bear this name, the latter due to his ownership of Knowsley Hall which apparently ‘fills the gap between the two towns.’ Not so sure about that one.
Leigh Leopards vs Wigan Warriors
Where: Leigh Sports Village, Leigh
When: Thursday 30th March, 8pm
TV: Sky Sports Arena/Sky Sports Mix
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Leigh’s Last Five: 16-24 Win vs Hull FC (Round 6), 38-20 Loss vs Warrington (Round 5), 20-12 Win vs St Helens (Round 4), 25-30 Win vs Hull KR (Round 3), 14-6 Loss vs Catalans (Round 2)
Wigan’s Last Five: 20-16 Win vs Salford (Round 6), 12-14 Win vs Huddersfield (Round 5), 10-18 Loss vs Catalans (Round 4), 0-36 Win vs Castleford (Round 3), 60-0 Win vs Wakefield (Round 2)
Betfred Match Winner Odds: Leigh 21/10, Wigan 2/5, Tie 20/1
First Try Scorer Odds: Bevan French - 5/1, Liam Marshall - 6/1, Jai Field - 7/1, Josh Charnley - 10/1, Tom Briscoe - 12/1
Both teams have two men on the brink of big milestones. Leigh’s Josh Charnley is two points away from the 1,000 Super League points mark, and Tom Briscoe needs one more try to reach 200 for his career.
Wigan’s Willie Isa didn’t feature against Salford last week, so remains one game away from his 300th career appearance. Bevan French is also two tries away from hitting 100 career tries, 63 of them coming in the three years he’s adorned the colours of the cherry and whites.
Wigan 50-6 Leigh (Round 17, 2021)
Leigh 16-30 Wigan (Round 6, 2021)
Leigh 18-20 Wigan (Round 1, 2021)
Leigh 50-34 Wigan (Round 18, 2017)
Wigan 20-0 Leigh (Round 3, 2017)
Total Super League Meetings: 7 (1 win for Leigh, 6 for Wigan)
For the first time in his rugby league career, Adrian Lam finds himself facing Wigan Warriors in a competitive match, having spent three years there as a player in the noughties and two years as head coach. There’s always a bit of needle in local fixtures like these, and we can expect to see a little bit more on Thursday night.
Wigan will be boosted by the return of Joe Shorrocks, who was on loan at Leigh until this week. No doubt he will have some reconnaissance to report on the Leopards, and the Leigh players themselves might have a target to aim for in their opposition ranks. Nathan Wilde replaces Shorrocks in Lam’s 21-man squad.
Both teams are largely injury-free so far this season, but there’s plenty of familiarity between the ranks. Josh Charnley, Zak Hardaker, Joe Mellor, Jack Hughes and Umyla Hanley have all played for Wigan previously and there’s a battle of two brothers as Joe and Jake Wardle face off against each other for Leigh and Wigan respectively. Within the Wigan ranks, Liam Byrne, Iain Thornley (on loan at Barrow) and Ryan Hampshire all have experience of playing at Leigh, as well as the aforementioned Shorrocks.
Wigan enter this game with a point to prove. They were fortunate that Salford ran out of steam last week at the DW, so it’s vital for Matty Peet’s side to keep the results coming, and a local derby could be the perfect game to warm up for the incoming fixtures against St Helens and league leaders Warrington.
Leigh have a 50% win rate so far this season, which is an incredible feat given that most fans and pundits wrote them off as relegation favourites at the start of the season. Lam has got a tune out of his side, and Super League joint-top scorer Josh Charnley is back scoring tries for fun, notching a hat-trick last weekend against Hull FC. The Leythers are intent on causing a stir this season, and their team is talented enough to comfortably survive and maybe even find themselves fighting for the play-offs in a few months time.
Sportsman Stat: Eight of the last ten fixtures between the two have finished with 40+ points scored (All competitions). Expect a try-fest.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change