Salford Red Devils centre Dan Sarginson believes his side must “meet fire with fire” when they welcome Super League leaders Wigan Warriors to the AJ Bell Stadium tonight.
Sarginson left Wigan at the end of the last Super League season to join Salford, who against the odds reached October’s Grand Final at Old Trafford, losing out to 23-6 to St Helens.
Salford haven’t quite hit the heights they hit last season, winning just one out of their first six games so far this term in Super League.
In contrast, Wigan have lost just one out of six, winning the other five.
“We need to meet fire with fire really and take it to them,” Sarginson told MM. “We’ve obviously struggled a bit this season so far with the one win from six and we’re not naïve to that, so we know what’s coming.”
“We’re up against a good side in Wigan, a tough team.
“When you play the big sides, they bring out the best in you, and we’ve got to be at the top of our game to even compete with them. I know with the Wigan, Saints, the Warrington games, the boys are usually fully fired up for them games and we probably play a bit better than we usually do so that will certainly help us.”
Wigan are a team in white hot form right now, they’ve won their last four Super League games and scored 130 points in the process in victories over Toronto Wolfpack, Hull FC, Huddersfield Giants and Hull KR.
Salford have a huge task in front of them tonight, as they did in the Super League final eliminator at the DW Stadium in October where they beat Wigan 28-4 in perhaps their best performance of recent years.
That night, Sarginson was part of the Wigan team that only managed to score a single try in the whole 80 minutes due to Salford’s resolute defence.
If Salford are to repeat that feat tonight, Sarginson acknowledges they’re going to have to be every bit as good defensively.
“The amount of points they’ve scored, we just need to be on defensively and that will be our building block for that,” the Australian said. “The attack stuff comes second, but first and foremost we need to be on defensively.
“We’ve done a fair bit of video (analysis). We know they’ve got some key players and we’ve come up with ploys to nullify their threat. We’re pretty sure we know roughly what they’re doing in attack and they’re getting teams at the moment. So our defence needs to be pretty good.”
One team Salford can look to for inspiration in defence is indeed Wigan, and former Red Devil now turned Warrior Jake Bibby is a key part of the Warriors’ defensive shape having moved in the opposite direction to Sarginson at the end of the 2019 Super League season.
Bibby, along with Jackson Hastings, who also made the switch from the AJ Bell to the DW recently, will tonight play against the team they played so well for last season. But they’re important to their new team just as they were to their old team.
“We’ve touched on what he (Bibby) does in defence and him and Jaffa (Joe Burgess) are pretty good defensively on that left edge, so we’ve looked a bit into that but not too much of an insight into him,” Sarginson said.
“Bevan French and Jackson Hastings are the main players in their spine we’ve been looking at. But he (Bibby) is a great player and everyone will be doing their own individual videos but in the main videos we’ve been touching more on the team structure.”
Hastings was a key part of why Salford achieved their remarkable feat of reaching the Super League Grand Final in 2019, and along with French he’s been one of the Super League’s standout performers in 2020 so far.
Salford will clearly have a lot to deal with tonight against the best team in Super League right now, but despite their scintillating form of lat, Sarginson was reluctant to label his former side or any Super Legaue team as ‘favourites’ to be crowned champions in October 2020.
“It’s probably too early to make predictions. You see it every year, teams get off to a flying start and maybe fall off towards the back end. I think you’ve seen with Huddersfield (Giants), they’ve had a brilliant start,” said Salford’s number four.
Huddersfield have won four of their opening five Super League games, with the Giants only defeat thus far coming at the hands of Wigan on match day four – a game the Warriors won convincingly 42-10.
It’s still early days in the season, but if Salford beat Wigan it could well be a catalyst to kick start a run of form for last year’s Grand Final runners-up.
Sarginson added: “We’ve had a pretty poor start but we can pick up towards the back end, so I think it’s how you finish the season that’s important. But take nothing away from them (Wigan), they’re playing well and are a very challenging side to beat.
“If we can beat a team top of the league, it’s obviously massive for our confidence and to be honest we just need two points now and any win will do for us. But if we can take down top of the league it’s certainly puts us on a step.”