LEEDS RHINOS pack man Mitch Achurch expects to face the real Wigan Warriors in Newcastle on Saturday.
Wigan have lost their last two matches, including a 58-16 drubbing at Catalans Dragons last weekend, but Achurch warned: “I can’t imagine them playing as badly as last week, especially against us.”
The Magic Weekend showdown is a must-win game for Wigan to maintain hopes of finishing top of the table and Achurch stressed: “We expect the first 30 minutes to be as brutal as we’ve had all year. We are ready for it, we’ve got to prepare ourselves to cop some whacks and to give some back as well. We will have to play a bit tougher than we did in the first 30 against Hull KR last week.”
Wigan managed to knock Rhinos out of their stride in last year’s Magic Weekend clash, which they won 18-14 and Achurch added: “I think that’s part of their game.
“You watch players who go from other clubs to Wigan and all of a sudden they develop a bit of niggle and whatnot. It’s part of how they’re coached I think, but it’s probably something they lost, watching them last week.
“I don’t think they got bullied, but they didn’t look like the regular Wigan last week. This week they will probably have been in there, getting flogged and they’ll get back to basics. They will be back to their old ways I suppose and we have to be ready for them.”
Rhinos will be top of the table next week, whatever happens in Newcastle.
Their lead could be down to just one point or up to five, depending on their result and how second-placed St Helens fare against Warrington Wolves on Sunday afternoon.
Achurch said: “If you look at the top of the table, we’re not really sitting comfortable.
“One or two losses and everybody’s caught us, so we’ve got to keep St Helens and bay and stay on top right until the end of the season.”
Leeds currently hold a three-point advantage, despite winning only one of their last four First Utility Super League fixtures, last Friday’s 36-16 home success against Hull KR.
“In the first half it wasn’t so much us playing bad, it was a few decisions on the end of stuff,” Achurch reflected. “For a couple of weeks we’ve been able to play pretty freely with the ball. We saw a couple of open spaces early and we went for them, when it wasn’t on.
“We should have waited, but we didn’t do that and we turned the ball over with Hull KR on the front foot straight away, on the first two tackles coming out of their own end. For the first 30 minutes on Saturday we’ll be looking to get back to solid defence and putting the ball in the corners.”
Despite Leeds losing to Wigan at each of the past two, Achurch is a fan of the Magic Weekend concept. He said: “I think the fans get right behind it. The rivalry between Wigan and Leeds is felt more in this game than a regular-season game. It’s a big weekend for rugby league and in my opinion probably the two top teams playing against each other, so it’s a big one and I’m looking forward to it.”