Well, Montpellier is one busy city let me tell you. Apart from
Catalan v Wigan, the city was also hosting a festival of extreme
sports, a Gay Pride march and a homecoming for the Montpellier
Rugby Union team who had reached their first ever French Rugby
Union Grand Final.
Sadly the latter of those three events was
held on the same night as Catalan v Wigan which, from a local point
of view, rendered the decision by Catalan to move the game to
Montpellier pretty pointless. I mean the locals just weren't
interested in anything but their team being in the Rugby Union
Final. It was unbelievably bad luck for Catalan because the Union
team had reached the Grand Final very unexpectedly from sixth place
in the table after going away and winning twice by just 1 point. It
made the event of the match itself a bit of a damp squib. They
would have hoped for a far bigger crowd than the 9,372 that turned
From a Wigan fan point of view, Montpellier was massively
different from Perpignan. Back there, everyone is close together
because it is a small city but in Montpellier its a huge place so
everyone is stretched out. Having said that I thought the tram
service was excellent, costing just 3.75 euros for a day ticket, so
that did make it easy to get around. We kind of latched onto an
Irish Bar called Fitzpatricks but if you didn't know where it was,
it was a bit hidden away.
I hadn't even got a pint in the Irish Bar for the Saints/Leeds
game on Friday Night before someone wanted to pose for a picture
with "Bilko". Didn't quite catch the who the gentleman was but it
amused me nethertheless. Met a few other new people over the
weekend as well. Seemingly gone are the days now when I could lurk
about anonymously. The parents of the Tomkins trio were also
hovering around the Irish Bar for most of the weekend. I'm told
their Dad likes reading my Match Reports.......perhaps I need to
start slagging them off more often! ;-)
On my particular trip their were seven (including myself) who
travelled down by train Thursday and flew back on Monday. Great
weekend was had but of the other six, three of them ended up
strangely being caught up in a CS Gas attack in the Australian Bar
by the river (they are fine but because of the language barrier
don't have a clue what happened - weird shit!), two agreed
to get engaged and one kept getting soaked prancing about in
fountains. Clearly I was being the sensible one, but there
speaks a man who woke up Monday Morning still clothed from the
night before having collapsed in a drunken heap on his bed. Quiet
Onto the match itself and I have to say that the stadium was
superb. It was in the middle of nowhere, miles away from the city
centre, but plenty of room to roam around inside. The stands were
very steep though. I did enjoy seeing my friend, known as "Woody",
fall arse over tit down the steps spilling a full pint in the
process, although not one drop landed on him! I did hear someone
else had a bad fall at full time but didn't witness that myself. He
was fine by all accounts.
Wigan's on field performance was pretty flat. Catalan controlled
us very well and we just simply lacked any spark what so ever.
Again for me I'm watching Brett Finch and he's still throwing
passes at players who look like they are dummy runners, rather than
missing them out and getting a good overlap. I'm not going to sit
here and suggest he is playing poor but if I ask myself has he
improved our team so far and the answer is a resounding no for me.
I thought we'd be getting a player who would take complete control
and produce a superb kicking game to get teams on the back foot but
I'm not seeing what he is giving us? The last tackle option for me
was garbage again in this game and it's precisely this kind of
game, when we are on the back foot and not making easy yards, that
we have to create pressure on the last. You can't just blame Finch
for that, but the fact we didn't have a good last tackle again I
feel contributed to the end result.
Having said that, I still think we'd win that kind of game more
often than not but despite good efforts from Jeff Lima, Paul
Prescott and Lee Mossop, we were perhaps a prop short in this game
with Andy Coley having joined Stuart Fielden in being absent. I
remain mystified why Ben Davies or Dom Crosby are not being given a
game in these circumstances. Particularly facing the huge Catalan
pack, I think one of those two should have been put in ahead of
The game was a very midfield affair with penalties being
required to march the teams towards the try line. One such penalty
in the 9th minute led to the first score for the French. It was an
offside call and Scott Dureau pumped it into the corner. Straight
from the tap, Jean-Phillipe Baile was held up over the line but he
wouldn't be stopped a second time moments later. Nice footwork from
Dureau got him over in the corner with the try being awarded after
video referee consultation with Ian Smith. We actually had a big
screen in this venue and it looked a good call to me. Dureau then
converted off the touchline for a 6-0 lead.
Not much occurred until Wigan levelled the scores in the 20th
minute. A penalty got us up the field before Lima and Mossop
charged up to lay the platform. Thomas Leuluai, again starting at
Hooker, went close but was stripped of the ball trying to score.
Referee Silverwood deemed the strip was in the field so it was a
penalty rather than a penalty try. Soon after that, Finch and
Deacon combined to send Sam Tomkins chiming at the line. Lovely
drop of the shoulder saw him mug Daryl Millard and Setaimata Sa in
defence to score close to the posts. Easy conversion for Pat
Richards made it 6-6.
Catalan though hit back on 27 minutes with a high tackle against
Sean O'Loughlin helping set up the territory. Jamal Fakir, looking
wrapped up in the tackle, got a rough offload away and this allowed
Ian Henderson to send Daryl Millard over easily in the left corner.
The decision went to the video ref but again it looked a fair try
to me, albeit a soft one! Dureau converted again to make it 12-6.
Wigan were not behind for long. 34th minute and the scores were
level again. An error from Catalan gave Wigan the territory and it
was a bit of Sam Tomkins genius that got us over the line again.
O'Loughlin, Finch and Deacon all combined but it was Sam who had
the idea to chip over the top into the in goal. Clint Greenshields
should have dealt with it but he left it thinking it would go dead.
It didn't and Sam pounced a bugs dick before the dead ball line.
Pat converted for 12-12.
Before half time though, Catalan got the lead back again with a
penalty goal that proved huge in the rest of this contest.
Stupid offside penalty on the fourth tackle enabled Dureau to slot
over an easy two from bang in front to give them a 14-12 half time
lead. Late in the tackle count penalties really were proving a huge
problem for Wigan, especially in the first half.
Baring in mind that the next score didn't arrive until the 68th
minute, that two point lead was huge for Catalan. Chances were rare
and it gave them the impetus to control the game, which they did
well. I might be wrong but I couldn't recall at the game them
giving one penalty to Wigan all second half which was credit to
However things could, and in my view should, have been
different. 44th minute and Wigan go on the attack down the left.
Deacon puts up a bomb and Damien Blanch isn't the first defender to
flap under pressure from Pat. The ball bounces into the in goal and
it's anyone's ball. Ryan Hoffman eventually got a hand on the ball
for a try but Silverwood handed the decision on to Ian Smith. He
decided Catalan had grounded the ball in goal before Hoffman scored
but watching the replays now I'm back home, I am mystified that he
came to that conclusion. It simply didn't happen!
Perhaps it was karma after that Pat "try" last week against Hull
KR but in the end result it was a huge call that wrongly went
against us I feel. I'm not arguing against the fact that Catalan
deserved to win because they did but to get a possible 18-14 lead
at this point in the game would have been huge. It could have
allowed us to control the contest rather than the other way round.
I feel it was yet another piss poor video referee decision and
there are far too many at the moment for my liking. Just stop all
this crap about elbows and finger tips being able to ground balls
and just make it plainly clear that if you don't get your full
force of your hand on top of the ball it ain't a try! That way all
us supporters will know exactly were we stand on this issue.
Anyway........after that, got to be honest Wigan never looked
like scoring. Sam Tomkins had proved to be our only spark in this
game and once he got hampered with a dead leg, which left him
hobbling for most of the second half, no one else stood up to the
plate. We were also desperate for penalties to help us down field
and like I said I can't recall us being given one second half. In
fairness, the French never looked like scoring either until they
did to seal the win in the 69th minute.
Alas, it was a penalty that helped them down field, a high shot
against Harrison Hansen, but our defence should have been far
better for the winning try. Dureau, Sa and Greenshields combined
and a good dummy run from Lopini Paea just did enough to halt
Deacon's sliding defence without obstructing him. This created to
overlap for Millard to hit and he score his second try, Josh
Charnley having no chance marking two defenders out wide. For me we
were done here because we hung back in defence after the play the
ball. Dureau converted to make it 20-12 and although 10 minutes
remained but all us Wigan fans knew that this game was dusted and
our run of 17 trips without defeat was over.
Only other things to report at the match was a scuffle in the
first half, but I must admit I only saw the end of it. A good stink
by all accounts but I was getting a beer down on the concourse.
Also in the last minute, Sam Tomkins was flattened fairly by Jason
Baiteri. It caused a kerfuffle but their was nothing wrong with the
shot and fair play to Sam he got straight up smiling about it.
Finally after the game we got the sight of Richard Silverwood
totally wasted back in the Irish Bar. No idea how he got so
drunk, and so quickly as well, but it was a funny sight. I know
some might thing that doesn't reflect well but I actually think its
a good thing to see the refs showing they are human and socialising
with fans on trips like that, Phil Bentham did it on a previous
trip I recall. Silverwood perhaps needs to be careful about what he
is drinking though!