Defeat to St Helens could be a blessing in disguise according to Wigan Warriors’ Liam Farrell as the defending Betfred Super League champions prepare for their Salford showdown.
Adrian Lam’s side suffered a crushing 40-10 defeat in semi-final one to Saints, who reached their first Betfred Super League Grand Final since 2014.
Now Wigan have to get past the Red Devils in their second meeting in as many weeks to reach Old Trafford, after the Warriors defeated Salford 18-12 in Qualifier 1.
Indeed, keeping alive the goal of retaining their crown is a task which Farrell admits took on an extra dimension following what he describes as the ‘embarrassing’ defeat to St. Helens.
“The Saturday morning [after the St. Helens game] was tough,” he said.
“We reviewed the game and there were some honest calls from the lads on how we played and what went wrong.
“I think Saints turned up with an attitude that they wanted it more than us and ran harder and defended better than us.
“It was tough to take because this club prides itself on those kinds of things but we’ve got a second chance this weekend to put things right and there’s no bigger test than coming up against third in the league in Salford who have done outstandingly well this year.
“It could be a blessing in disguise to have that sort of defeat to Saints, it will give us extra motivation for this weekend and it gives us that kick to push ourselves even more.
“If we want to win a Grand Final then we’re going to have to match what Saints did to us.
“I think everyone was embarrassed by what Saints did to us. We have to go out firing this weekend and start really well.”
The meeting of the two sides on Friday would have been wholly unthinkable during the middle phases of the regular season and it caps a remarkable turnaround from both.
Having both been languishing down near the wrong end of the table, Wigan won 12 of their last 13 matches to finish second while Salford went on an eight-game winning run to defy all the odds by finishing third.
However, while Farrell acknowledges his side’s brilliant turnaround in form, the second row knows there is a stiff challenge ahead and that all the pressure will be on Wigan in semi-final two.
He added: “They [Salford] were one of the favourites for relegation and it’s amazing to think they finished third in the league and they beat everyone’s expectations now.
“In some kind of sense, there’s no pressure on them and a lot on us but we’ve got a lot of former Grand Final winners who can take that pressure away.
“You have to just do what you normally do [in a high-pressure game like this] but to a better standard. This club has done that for a long time to a really good standard so we’re looking to do that this weekend.
“We started the year in not great shape, we were down in the relegation battle, and to think where we are now – we’ve done outstanding.
“With the new coach coming in and all the new systems and structures we put in place it was a tough start for us but as the year went on and the more wins we got we proved to ourselves that we can compete with the best in the league.”
The Betfred Super League Grand Final is the biggest night in Super League and takes place at Old Trafford, the iconic home of Manchester United on Saturday 12 October (6pm KO). Secure your seat by visiting https://www.superleague.co.uk/tickets/grand-final