Well could anyone have predicted this final score? Their was a
massive stench of negativity in the pubs ahead of this game, with
not many expecting a victory never mind a 44-0 victory. Those that
read my match preview will know that I was one of them but for me
Michael Maguire showed last week why he is a top class coach.
journos are still moaning
about his ban on players talking to
the media but it worked a treat. In seven days we went from a side
that looked unbelievably fatigued to a side that looked like it had
found it's hunger for the challenge again. That's what makes
Maguire ten times the coach Brian Noble was and it's why we have
gone from nearly me to trophy holders. Him and his staff have this
side so switched on mentally in a way that Noble (still Super
League's most successful coach) could only dream of!
This game was a real hard fought ding-dong battle in the
forwards in first twenty minutes and it was a battle that we won,
and that really is what won us the game. Ok, Catalan perhaps
deserved a try in the opening quarter but they were physically
rattled up the middle. Not just by the props, it was to a man with
Mike McIlorum and Tommy Leuluai also grafting their hearts out in
Following on from a poor display against St Helens,
coach Maguire shuffled his cards with Paul Deacon being dropped. He
moved Brett Finch to Stand Off with Leuluai reverting back to Scrum
Half and McIlorum starting at hooker. Pat Richards had been a doubt
right up till kick off with a calf strain but did play. However Lee
Mossop had to withdraw from the bench, literally minutes before
kick off, after pulling a hamstring in the warm up. Eamon O'Carroll
got the late call to play in his place.
This switch in the halves worked a treat for me. Our kicking
game couldn't have got any worse than last week against Saints but
this time it was very effective. We continually had Catalan turning
round with the chase helping to trap them well inside their own 20.
Wigan showed their intentions with a penalty goal being opted for
in just the second minute. Some fans questioned the negativity but
I think it was a smart move. Obviously hindsight helps but having
had 2-3 weeks of the chips being down, it was a good nerve settler
The weather had been calm all day but, just before kick off, a
swirling wind had developed and the French continually bombed high
to try and use it. Wigan in the main dealt with it well except on
one occasion in the 9th minute, a bomb that perhaps should have
given Catalan the lead.
Scott Dureau put the bomb up but Sam
Tomkins failed to collect and Thomas Bosc had an easy touch down.
However, video referee Phil Bentham chalked it off after he judged
winger Cyril Stacul was "inside the ten" when Sam fumbled. I think
it was a bit harsh but by the letter of the law, it was a correct
decision. Stacul was at fault I guess for not hanging back because
if he had done so, it would have been a try.
The signs of Wigan's
dominance in the pack eventually began to tell. Rémi
Casty left the field with jelly legs on 15 minutes after a fantastic
and clean big hit by McIlorum. You could argue that it was when the
interchanges took affect that the game began to turn out way. Paul
Prescott, Eamon O'Carroll and Ginger Farrell all came on around
this point and they offered far more impetus that the Catalan
options of Sébastien Raguin, Michael Simon and Jason Baitieri.
More injury woe for the French followed on 23 minutes when their
top try scorer Damien Blanch limped off. His injury coincided with
Setaimata Sa being tackled into touch by Pat Richards twenty metres
from his own line. Having to say, Sa was a bit of a bastard all
afternoon. He was niggling George Carmont all game but King George
just kept laughing it off.
Perhaps Catalan were caught off guard re-shuffling the departure
of Blanch because Wigan soon scored on the opposite wing with Sam
Tomkins long cut out pass sending Baby Josh Charnley over for a
walk in. Pat failed to convert so the lead was just 6-0.
the best things a rugby league side can do is follow up a try with
another on the next set - Wigan did just that! A good break from
Joel Tomkins down the right put Catalan on the back foot and a
couple of tackles later, Ryan Hoffman put in a perfectly timed run
onto Brett Finch's pass. Close to the posts meant an easy Pat
conversion and a 12-0 lead after 28 minutes.
Catalan had a couple
of opportunities before half time. They were a bit unlucky again
when Dureau had passed forward whilst sending Lopini Paea over.
Soon after though, Wigan had a shot at a drop goal but Finch's
effort sailed wide. That would have been a rare one. Wigan have
only kicked one drop goal in the past two seasons under Maguire.
Only 47 seconds remained when Wigan fed into a scrum half way
inside their own half, but they showed how clinical they can be by
scoring a try right on the hooter for the second week in a row.
This time it was all created by a bit of magic from Leuluai. Good
offload from Prescott gave him the ball and he chipped over the top
of three defenders, collected and sent Farrell under the sticks.
Excellent support play from Ginger, he is brilliant a supporting
the break or half break. Only 3 seconds remained when he touched
down and an easy conversion for Pat left the half time score at
It was just Catalan suffering with injuries. Joel Tomkins
didn't make it onto the field for the second half after suffering a
dead leg. Wigan chose to take precaution on that one with Chris
Tuson coming off the bench for him with Hoffman switching to right
centre for the second half.
The first twenty minutes of the second half, mirrored the
first twenty of the first half. It was another ding-dong forwards
battle and it was all about who cracked first. The only scoring
came from a second penalty for Pat that made it 20-0.
You could sense that one more Wigan try would kill off Catalan,
and so it proved when it came on the hour. We should have been
given a try four minutes before then though when a brilliant
passing move got Pat Richards over in the corner, but it was
disallowed for an apparent obstruction by a dummy runner. I've made
my point about those kind of video referee decisions before. They
continue to penalise players for making a dummy run - absolutely
garbage! It's pathetic. I mean, I'm sure many people reading this
will have played the game at some level, how often do you get up
after a try has been scored against you and think, "hmmm I was
obstructed there?". Collisions in a passing move like that is just
inevitable. I mean surely if your an attacker running through your
eye is on the ball, not on defenders is in front of you? Maybe I'm
not explaining my argument well, but it bloody annoys me.
Especially because in non televised games you hardly see
obstructions given, yet it happens almost every weekend on tv
Anyway, the try that was given on the hour mark.
Sam put in a grubber towards the left wing and Clint Greenshields
was coming across to shepherd it into touch. However, Pat got a
boot to it and kicked inside for Carmont to touch down. Pat then
converted off the touchline to make it 26-0 and a five try lead was
always going to be too much.
Catalan were now well beaten and it showed with them gifting us
our next two tries. First, Thomas Bosc threw a gift intercept which
Finch gratefully took under the posts on 63 minutes then two
minutes later Baby Josh was rewarded for sheer effort. A grubber
was put in by Sam and Charnley sprinted towards the loose ball
whilst Stacul was very lazy in his effort. That extra effort
created a fumble and Sam Tomkins scooped up to go under the sticks
himself. Excellent play from Josh, he puts in that extra effort so
often and arguably that's why he has been the regular right winger
this season and not Darrell Goulding? Pat converted both tries,
which now made it 38-0 with 14 minutes to go.
It was now looking
like Wigan would rack up quite a few tries in the latter stages but
only one more followed. Good long pass from Finch was perfect to
send Hansen over the line. In Deacon's absence we needed a big game
from Finch tonight and he for me was our man of the match. Within
the ten metre area he is all class at finding the perfect pass to
get someone in. Pat converted again to leave the final score at
So, Wigan now face St Helens again in the semi finals next week.
Plenty of renewed optimism now. I think if we play like we did in
this game, we shall win! Bring it on!