Last weeks performance was a big of a conundrum. A superb opening twenty minutes where we blew the Saints off the park followed by a nightmare hour where we couldn't do anything right. It was one
of those that you just have to write off as a bad day at the office, but worrying a second consecutive one after losing to the Giants the previous Saturday.
Expectations will undoubtedly be lowered going into the Magic weekend, especially as we are up against the league leaders rather than our usual Magic opponents, the Bradford Bulls.
Ben Jones-Bishop is on the verge of a return for the Rhinos and could be back in a couple of round time so with the continued absence of Peacock and Ablett Brian McDermotthas named the same nineteen that he did for Mondays clash against the Saints.
His full squad is; Hardaker, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, McShane, Jones-Buchanan, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Moore, Singleton, Vickery, and Sutcliffe. I expect that he'll settle on the same seventeen as last week too.
The Warriors can tear an unprepared side apart and have pure quality in the backs in the form of Richards, Charnley and Rat Boy. That's not to say that they won't also pummel you in the forwards with a pack that can mix it with the best in the league, and nine times out of ten emerge as the victors.
Make no mistake we are up against it as we take on a squad of; Charnley, Crosby, Farrell, Flower, Goulding, Hansen, Hughes, Lauaki, McIlorum, Mossop, O'Loughlin, Powell, Richards, Smith, Spencer, Thornley, L Tomkins, S Tomkins, and Tuson.
Wigan are unbeaten since their loss at Headingley on the 15th March and a loss on Sunday would probably see them enough points clear of us to mean that they are uncatchable over the remainder of
the season. A win, on the other hand, would mean that we would finish the weekend just four points behind the league leaders with two games in hands.
Scarily, Wigan have scored 150 more points than anyone else in the competition, over twenty-five percent better than their nearest rivals Huddersfield Giants. They have also conceeded the least
points in the league, averaging just over twelve a game, although the Rhinos have conceeded an average of just sixteen a game.
The 'Magic' weekend is now in its seventh year and the Rhinos have the proud record of being unbeaten in all previous six 'on the road' games. We have beaten the Bulls four times (in Cardiff three
times and at the Etihad last year), the Catalans (Murrayfield) and Wakefield (also Murrayfield).
During the regular rounds since the start of Superleague the Warriors have the advantage having won twenty-three and drawn four of the forty-two games between the two arch enemies.
I think that this one will belong to the Warriors. The Rhinos confidence must be low after two consecutive crashes following an eight game unbeaten run. We have lost that temporary air of
invincibility that we'd gained.
With Peacock and Ablett still missing I think we'll struggle to get anywhere near a rampant Warriors. The bookies agree and have given us a ten point start on the coupon, and you can get odds of
5/2 on an outright Rhinos win.
It's going to be a decent enough day on Sunday with the forecast suggesting temperatures in the high teens and little chance of any
of the wet stuff. The pitch will have endured eight hours of rugby before we get on at 7:30 on Sunday night. Hopefully it will have held up well and we can get a fast open game.
Have a great, safe, sunny, Manchester weekend.
Enjoy the game.