13 October 2023

The crucial battles which could decide the destiny of Super League title

13 October 2023

Experience and youth will go head to head in Saturday’s Super League Grand Final between Wigan and Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford.

For some players the showpiece will represent their last time on a rugby league pitch while others aim to use the opportunity as a springboard to future success.

Here the PA news agency picks out four of the crucial battles that could decide the destiny of this year’s Super League title:

Full-back: Sam Tomkins v Jai Field

Tomkins’ stunning late try in the play-off semi-final win over St Helens provided ample proof that the 34-year-old’s prodigious rugby brain has not dimmed in the twilight of his career. In contrast, the flying Field’s game is based on speed and spontaneity, capable of cutting through the most resolute of defensive lines. Whoever wins the war on Saturday should be grasping the Super League trophy.

Wing: Tom Johnstone v Abbas Miski

Johnstone and Miski went blow-for-blow in the try-scoring stakes this season and finished the regular campaign locked together at the top of the standings on 27. King of the full-length kick-chase, Johnstone has relished his first season in France but is matched for speed by Miski, the Lebanon international who has seized his unexpected chance to star on the wing for Wigan.

Hooker: Michael McIlorum v Brad O’Neill

Intimidating, combustible and a master of the game’s dark arts, McIlorum will set the tempo for Catalans provided he can resist his former club’s attempts to ruffle his feathers. The 21-year-old O’Neill, meanwhile, brings youthful enthusiasm and an imposing physical presence in defence. Wigan need O’Neill – who seized his slot from veteran Sam Powell earlier this season – to rise to the occasion and match his imposing rival.

Halves: Mitchell Pearce v Bevan French

Australian Pearce, who has seen and done it all during a stellar career in Super League and the NRL, will also retire after the game and his already ferocious will to win will ramp up further as he seeks to bow out in style. French, fresh from snaring this season’s Super League Man of Steel, has revelled in his new role this season and brings the kind of vision and vibrancy that has proved pivotal to his side’s success so far.

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