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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Warrington Wolves may be edged out in wet conditions

Wigan Warriors can battle to Grand Final success

Wigan's Oliver Gildart scores a spectacular try against Wakefield
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Wigan v Warrington
Sky Sports Arena & Main Event, 5pm Saturday

For the third time in six seasons, Wigan and Warrington are set to slug it out at Old Trafford for rugby league’s biggest prize.

The Warriors will hope that history repeats itself as they look to emulate their wins over the Wolves in 2013 and 2016. 

On both occasions, Wigan went off underdogs as punters piled on to Warrington forcing them into favouritism close to kick-off. 

The gambles went astray with and the Wolves' losses became part of a sequence of defeats for the favourites in the last seven Grand Finals. 

The last jollies to prevail were Wigan in 2010 when they defeated St Helens 22-10. 

Wigan coach Shaun Wane will say his goodbyes after this match as he leads his home town team for the 241st and final time. 

Wane, who was named Betfred Super League coach of the year this week, is 4-7 to bow out with the seventh major trophy of his eight-season reign.

The Warriors' run to the final has been almost perfect. They became the first team to win all seven Super 8s fixtures before comfortably disposing of Castleford 14-0 in last weekend’s semi-final. 

Wigan’s defence has been immense with only 13 tries conceded during that run and their opponents  able to muster an average of only nine points per match. 

Warrington could manage only six as they went down 26-6 at the DW Stadium four weeks ago.

That was one of three Wigan wins in the five meetings between the two teams in 2018. Warrington have won twice including a comprehensive 23-0 victory in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final. 

Overall the five-match aggregate score was 87-67 to the Warriors which is reflected exactly by the four-point handicap for this clash.

That’s half the tally the Wolves were given when they upset table-toppers St Helens in the semis after finishing 15 points behind the league leaders during the season.

No Grand Final winners have ever finished that far off the pace. 

However, eight Old Trafford victors have been overseen by coaches in their first year in the hot seat and Wolves boss Steve Price aims to add to that tally. 

His team flopped in the Challenge Cup final in August when favourites against Catalans Dragons and had an inconsistent Super 8s campaign, winning four matches and losing three, before the upset victory over Saints at the Totally Wicked Stadium. 

Like their opponents, the Wolves are set to name the side that took them to Old Trafford a week ago. But their biggest problem will be posting points and with heavy rain forecast, this could develop into a low-scoring grind.

It could be exactly the type of match in which Wigan excel. The choice lies between backing the Cherry & Whites to cover the handicap at evens or to win by 12 points or fewer at 7-4 and at the prices and in the likely conditions, the latter is preferred.

It could be worth chancing some wagers at bigger prices too starting with the 2-1 that neither side reaches double figures by half-time. 

That would have been a winning wager in half the 20 previous Grand Finals and looks overpriced. 

So does the 7-1 that any individual Wigan player outscores the opposition. It’s happened in three of Wigan’s last eight games including in the last clash with the Wolves when Dom Manfredi and Sam Tomkins both outscored Warrington. 

The juice has gone out of the price of the popular punt on the first scoring play to be a penalty - 6-4 is the best on offer - but Hills appear to have erred by offering 14-1 about both sides opening their own tally with a two-pointer. 

Both the previous Grand Finals between these sides have seen Wigan recover from a half-time deficit to prevail. That’s a 7-1 chance today and can certainly be considered.

Wigan and their departing coach have made a habit of getting the job done when it matters and punters should back Wane and the Warriors to be singing in the rain. 

Wigan to win by one to 12 points
3pts 7-4 Betfred
Neither team to reach ten points by half-time
2pts 2-1 Ladbrokes
Any individual Wigan player to outscore Warrington
1pt 7-1 Betfred, Betway
Both teams to open their scoring with a penalty
1pt  14-1 Hills

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Warrington’s biggest problem will be posting points and with heavy rain forecast, this could develop into a low-scoring grind
E.W. Terms
Sky bet