It wasn't the best of games
but it could prove to be the biggest result of Wigan's season
having fought back from 14-22 down in the final quarter to win
24-22 against a physical Catalans Dragons side.
It's a big win
for so many reasons. Not only because we overcame our injury
problems but for the fact it takes us 5th, albeit with others
still yet to play this weekend, and also keeps Catalans off our
backs. A loss tonight and they would have been level with us in
the table. Now we have a four point cushion over them which is
better to have than not with games against Leeds and St Helens at
the back end of the month.
This was a really gutsy Wigan win. They had to dig deep against
a tough outfit, but our efforts were made all the more difficult
with another poor display from Pat Richards in the goal kicking
department. He didn't have an easy kick all night in fairness but
kicking only 2 goals from 5 almost cost us the match.
Wigan began the match dominating territory in the opening
quarter but they just couldn't find a way over the line. Pat
Richards did get over out wide in the fourth minute but his effort
was brought back for a forward pass.
Catalans were conceding penalty after penalty and Wigan
eventually took advantage of the easy territory in the 22nd
minute. Cameron Phelps offloaded out of a tackle to Thomas Leuluai
who sent George Carmont over in the left corner. Richards missed
the conversion - 4-0 Wigan.
Three minutes later Wigan scored again after Clint Greenshields
was deemed to have knocked on in front of his own posts. He
disputed the call which saw referee Ben Thaler give the penalty
rather than a scrum but despite being bang in front, Wigan took
the tap. Wigan caught the French side cold - Leuluai sent Richards
over and Greenshields again took the opportunity to complain to
Thaler but he was having none of it and sent him into the sin bin.
Meanwhile Richards converted to make it 10-0 to Wigan.
10 minutes with an extra man should have provided Wigan with an
opportunity to take full control of the game before half time but
it was Catalans who went on the offensive with Wigan conceding two
penalties close to their own line. It was pretty dumb rugby from
Wigan and Catalans fully deserved the try they got just before
they returned to full strength. Steven Bell it was who went over
in the right hand corner. Wigan protested furiously that he had
been bundled into touch. Not sure if he was or not but whoever the
Wigan tackler was made a brave effort to try and stop him but it
was deemed that he had grounded the ball first.
Leuluai hadn't learned from Greenshields' mouthing off and he
too was dispatched to the sin bin for protesting too much, just as
Catalans returned to full strength. Thomas Bosc also hit a
beautiful conversion off the touchline to make it 10-6.
Then a minute before half time Catalans showed Wigan how to
play against 12 men with a neat try down the left hand side.
Dimitri Pelo broke clear before finding Olivier Elima on his
inside for the try. Bosc hit another superb conversion to give the
French a 12-10 half time lead. Wigan had been given a big lesson
in how to convert territory into points because for the first half
hour it was all Cherry & White but the scoreboard certainly didn't
Darrell Goulding was playing for Salford against Wigan at the
JJB last month but he returned from his loan spell tonight looking
fresh and raring to go. His 8 games at the Willows seem to have
done him the world of good as he set up Wigan's first try of the
second half. He sent Amos Roberts over in the corner but Richards
failed to convert off the touchline so Wigan's lead was a slender
Catalans then had a 10 minute spell of domination which perhaps
should have won them the game. Greg Bird may be banned from
working for a UK club by Border Agencies and also facing jail for
assaulting a female but he is a pivotal player for the Dragons and
he began to run the show at this point.
Bosc put in a neat grubber which Bird touched down to make it
16-14 to the French then Bosc hit another sweet conversion to make
it 18-14. Then a shocking defensive effort from Amos Roberts
allowed Jean-Phillippe Baile to increase the lead. Baile had took
a big knock moments earlier and was still feeling the effects when
he swatted away Roberts who went far to high. Amos wasn't the only
guilty man, two more would be tacklers made poor efforts. A soft,
soft try. Bosc though missed the conversion and in the end it
would be a crucial miss.
So going into the final quarter of the match Wigan could have
mentally collapsed with a 22-14 deficit. They'd been in this kind
of position so many times at the JJB this year and more often than
not they'd not found a way to win but tonight they did.
For once they were patient and that patience was rewarded with
a second try of the night for Richards on 64 minutes. Cameron
Phelps was the provider and Pat converted this one to bring the
deficit down to two points.
Wigan may have struggled to convert the early match pressure
against the Dragons but it was proving to be like a quiz show
money in the bank scenario with those early efforts allowing us to
cash in on a Catalans defence that was fatiguing badly. Phelps was
the provider again, this time sending Goulding over for what
proved to be the match winner. Richards missed another kick off
the touchline though so Wigan had 6 minutes left to defend a 24-22
Pressure mounted straight away when Catalans players out jumped
Joel Tomkins to win a short kick off. They hammered at the Wigan
line and forced a drop out but a mistake eventually came to
relieve the pressure. The final moments of the match saw Wigan
attacking but the hooter went before they probably would have
scored to seal the game. It was a huge relief let me tell you!
But all in all it was a huge win for us. Bit of sweet revenge
came back late to beat us at the JJB last season. I must correct
Phil Veivers though who commented about us finally winning three games in a row in
the South Stand Bar post match. We won four in a row earlier in
the season when we beat Celtic, Wakefield (twice) and St Helens in
late April, early May. We need another big effort now against
Bradford to make it four in a row again and send us into three huge games against Leeds, St Helens
and then the cup semi final full of confidence.
Few other thoughts. When Leuluai was binned, Noble brought Karl
Pryce off the bench in at Stand Off which was baffling to say the
least. Cameron Phelps had a good game and I think he may suit the
role better. That would mean sticking Richards at full back and
Pryce out on the wing but all that disruption is better than Pryce
at Stand Off. He just looked so out of place.
Also thought Lee Mossop had a solid game on his return. He too
looks to have hugely benefited from his 9 match loan spell with
first Barrow then Huddersfield. Gareth Hock may be facing a two
year suspension but we may have a ready made replacement in
Mossop. Long way to go yet before he establishes himself but their
are positive signs at the moment.