Ahead of Friday’s play-off semi-final, Ian Proctor looks back on classic Wigan Warriors vs Salford Red Devils encounters, plus Toronto Wolfpack vs Featherstone Rovers games.
September 20, 2019 – Wigan 18 Salford 12
Wigan and Salford met in play-off football at Super League level for the first time a fortnight ago, and the reigning champions just did enough to claim victory and earn a visit to St Helens and the chance to go straight through to Old Trafford.
But Salford gave as good as they got and it was only a tremendous defensive effort from Adrian Lam’s Warriors which prevented Salford from claiming their maiden play Off victory in their first appearance at this level since 2006.
That piece of history came for Ian Watson’s men, six days later, when they kept Castleford Tigers scoreless and won 22-0 to keep their finest summer-era season alive.
They now meet Wigan for the fifth time this season in their quest to become the eighth club to contest the Grand Final in 22 years, just the fifth winners and the first new name on the trophy since Leeds Rhinos in 2004.
1:16 Wach ighlights as Wigan held off a determined Salford in this year’s Super League play-offs
Wigan are licking their wounds after conceding 40 points in a play-off game for the first time in 15 years. But they will still believe skipper Sean O’Loughlin is set to lead them out at Old Trafford for the sixth time in seven seasons.
The Warriors and the Red Devils produced an edge-of-the-seat thriller a fortnight ago when, despite being the better team in the opening quarter, the Red Devils failed to capitalise on their early supremacy and saw Oliver Gildart score a brilliant 24th-minute try to give Wigan a 6-0 lead.
But the teams were level at half-time after livewire Joey Lussick sent George Griffin powering over for a try converted by Krisnan Inu.
Two tries in three minutes effectively settled the outcome. Firstly, Inu attempted an offload close to his own line and Thomas Leuluai pounced for the touchdown.
And, soon after the restart, Wigan scored the best try of the game when Gildart sent Burgess away down the left flank and George Williams was on hand to take his inside pass fora breathtaking score.
In the recent past, Salford would have capitulated. Not this never-say-die outfit. Back they came, and Jackson Hastings showed his evasive skills to go past Farrell and score under the posts. At 18-12, it was game on.
Salford hammered the Wigan line, Lee Mossop was held up and denied a try against his former club and both Inu and Hastings almost scored with extra-time seemingly looming. Somehow, the champions held on.
So, with the stakes higher than ever, which team will book a trip to Old Trafford and whose season will come to an end on Friday?
July 31, 2014 – Wigan 45 Salford 4
1:03 Watch highlights from Wigan’s 45-4 win over Salford
Visits to Wigan, and especially the DW Stadium, have proved traumatic for Salford since they were last title contenders 40 years ago.
After winning for the third time in four visits to Central Park, in May 1979, the Red Devils managed just one further win in their final 18 visits to the Wigan venue. They were humiliated, 64-2, on their last appearance at Central Park in July 1999.
Salford’s 22 subsequent visits to DW Stadium have brought just a solitary win – the Niall Evalds-inspired 31-16 triumph two years ago.
The Red Devils invariably travel to Wigan like lambs to the slaughter and their defeat on the last day of July 2014 was typical of the experience.
Wigan Warriors vs Salford Red Devils
October 4, 2019, 7:00pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
Led by Adrian Morley, Salford arrived quietly confident having won three of the previous four matches, whereas Wigan were licking their wounds after being victims of a major upset when losing 16-8 at relegation-bound Bradford Bulls the previous week.
The television cameras were anticipating an historic first Salford win at DW Stadium, but the visitors were never in the hunt. It was also the occasion of Joel Tomkins’ return to Wigan after his spell in rugby union.
Matty Bowen’s 13th minute try gave Wigan an early ascendancy and they led 16-0 at the interval, but the brilliant former Queensland full-back was upstaged by a career-first try hat-trick from Anthony Gelling while Matty Smith scored a try, six goals and a drop-goal against his old club.
May 5, 2017 – Wigan 16 Salford 31
Salford ended their DW Stadium hoodoo with victory at the 18th attempt, two years ago. It had been 20 years since their previous win at Wigan but that had been at Central Park.
1:20 Watch the best of the action from Wigan’s win over Salford in 2017
Ian Watson’s men (third) were in the rare position of standing higher on the table than Wigan (fifth) and illustrated that their lofty standing was well-deserved by dominating the first-half to leave home fans shell shocked.
It was 16-0 at the interval with Kris Welham, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Niall Evalds having scored the tries. Astonishingly, Salford increased the lead to 28-0 after 47 minutes when Evalds scored his second try and Greg Johnson added another.
If there was any disappointment for Watson it was in the manner his men let Wigan off the hook. There was an inevitable fightback with home tries coming from Tom Davies, Ryan Sutton and Lewis Tierney.
However, Salford completed their historic victory when Gareth O’Brien slotted over a drop-goal to seal the 31-16 verdict.
April 22, 2019 – Featherstone 14 Toronto 23
1:18 Watch highlights as Toronto held off a determined Featherstone side on Easter Monday
Featherstone gave the Wolfpack one of their toughest tests of the season when the sides met at LD Nutrition Stadium on Easter Monday – and it was only a wonderful try hat-trick from Matty Russell which enabled Toronto to avoid their second defeat of 2019.
With new signing Dane Chisholm on home debut and in the inspirational form which would completely transform Featherstone’s season, Rovers bounced back from their early 0-8 deficit to take the lead midway through the second-half.
Gareth O’Brien and Russell crossed for tries in the opening quarter but Cook Islands international prop Maka Makatoa hit back with his first touchdown for Featherstone and it was 6-13 at the interval following Russell’s second try.
Conor Carey scored the first try of the second-half (and his first for Rovers) and when Chisholm kicked a penalty goal to edge Rovers 14-13 in front the 2,101 crowd sensed a major upset was on the cards.
Toronto Wolfpack vs Featherstone Rovers
October 5, 2019, 7:00pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
There were just five minutes remaining when the Wolfpack got themselves out of trouble thanks to a try by Andrew Dixo and Russell completed his hat-trick in the dying seconds to give the Canadians an inflated 23-14 winning margin that was grossly unfair on a battling Featherstone side.
July 12, 2019 – Toronto 22 Featherstone 18
Featherstone arrived in Toronto looking to repeat their 2018 win which had given them the distinction of becoming the first team to defeat the Wolfpack on home soil.
And while they never managed to get themselves in front, Ryan Carr’s men stayed in contention throughout to suggest that they will go into the Million Pound Game with genuine hope of securing Super League status for the first time.
Featherstone were just five minutes away from securing promotion in 1998, when they led Wakefield 22-18 at Huddersfield in the First Division Grand Final. But Francis Stephenson’s try won the day for Trinity and they have since enjoyed an unbroken 21-year top-flight spell.
1:15 Watch highlights from July’s meeting between Toronto and Featherstone in Canada
Toronto took a second-minute lead when Rovers visited in July, courtesy of a try from Gareth O’Brien, and his conversion and penalty goal made it 8-0 as half-time approached.
When Chase Stanley scored a try, two minutes from half-time, the contest looked over. But Featherstone had other ideas.
Jack Ormondroyd crossed within three minutes of the resumption to make it 14-6, only for Ricky Leutele’s class to produce another Wolfpack try.