Morgan Knowles is set to appear in his eighth Saints-Wigan Warriors derby on Friday - and will be hoping for the same outcome as their previous encounter at the DW Stadium in mid-July.
St Helens emerged victors 14-6 on that occasion and as well as crashing over the whitewash for one of his side’s two match-clinching tries, the 21-year-old Welsh international played a prominent role in lowering the colours of the Cherry and Whites who had taken maximum points from 10 successive home games
Knowles, whose only other try against their arch-rivals had come in a 29-18 defeat in April 2017, said: “I know which one gave me more satisfaction and hopefully I can repeat the feat on Friday and send our fans home with a smile on their faces.”
Saints have already completed a league double over the Warriors this season but the Barrow-born forward is fully aware that derby clashes often produce tight and nerve-tingling finishes, as well as unpredictable results, and is taking nothing for granted despite home advantage.
“Both sides will again be fired up with local bragging rights at stake and no one is likely to give a inch,” said Knowles, who will be looking for his fifth win against the old enemy and also getting his hands on the League Leaders’ Shield.
“There’s no need for any extra motivation,” he said. “It’s a derby against Wigan, never mind that we can seal the league leaders and go 3-0 up on them this year. We’re just looking forward to it.”
He added: “It’s going to be a tough arm wrestle, especially among the forwards. We know the qualities Wigan possess but we are ready for all the challenges we will face for the remainder of the season.”
Knowles admitted that the cup semi-final defeat against the Catalans Dragons had hurt and that they then struggled in the next game against the Huddersfield Giants before getting back on the horse at Wakefield.
“It is now just a question of everyone doing their own job, as well as working hard for each other, and hopefully the right results will follow.
“We have got a home semi-final to look forward to but we’ll only be focusing on each game as it comes along and there’s none more bigger than a visit from Wigan.”
New Super League chief executive Robert Elstone will risk upsetting Saintss chairman Eamonn McManus by taking the League Leaders’ Shield with him to the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Victory for Saints in their derby with second-placed Wigan would take them 10 points clear at the top of the table and into an unassailable position with just four matches left before the semi-finals.
However, a draw or a defeat would leave Justin Holbrook’s men still needing something from their remaining Super 8s fixtures and force league officials to pack away the trophy for another day, just as they did four years ago following a home defeat by Warrington.
On that occasion, McManus angrily accused the league and Sky television of insulting his club by their “infantile, stage-managed exit of the League Leaders’ Shield down our tunnel”.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane admits he would love nothing more than to deny his club’s arch rivals, even though it would almost certainly only delay the inevitable
Wane said: “If I’m honest, yes. I’d rather someone else win it.
“If they get the league leaders after this game then they deserve it. They’ve been consistently good all year so fair play.”