It was second placed Wigan Warriors, against bottom of the table Toulouse Olympique XIII, as the Cherry and Whites boarded the plane to France for their first ever Super League game against the new opposition who were promoted at the end of the 2021 season.
The home side made four changes from the team which lost to Warrington last time out, while Warriors coach Matty Peet gave a debut to promising young winger Abbas Miski in a mostly unchanged side, as they looked for a fourth consecutive victory at the start of the campaign and in the knowledge that a win by more than fifty-six points would see them above arch-rivals Saints in the league table.
Our pre-match Twitter poll suggested that 86% expected a Warriors victory and the bookies agreed giving the home side a twenty-four point start on the coupon.
With just three minutes elapsed Liam Marshall broke and offloaded superbly in the tackle to find Jai Field to go forty minutes down the wing and outpace Olly Ashall-Bott to go in and round under the posts. Zak Hardaker slotted over the simple kick for a 6-0 lead.
Field was the author of the second try on nine when the ball was switched to the left and fast hands ended up with Hardaker to cross as Toulouse had no answer. Hardaker was unable to add the conversion from wide, the ball drifting left of the upright.
After a sensational start Wigan started making errors and on twenty-two tempers boiled with some pushing and shoving requiring a word for the captains from the referee.
A Tony Gigot kick to the corner was knocked on by Abbas Miski as went up for the catch and he lost it forward for Guy Armitage to pick up the loose ball and dot down in the corner. Chris Hankinson was unable to add the extras from wide.
Another Miski mistake on twenty-nine, again under the high ball, saw Maxine Stefani pick up the loose ball and dot it down in a copy of the first Toulouse try although it was scored much closer to the uprights allowing Hankinson a simple conversion to level the scores. After being totally dominant in the opening minutes it was now the home side who were dominating.
Toulouse hit the front on thirty-four when a Lucas Albert reverse kick went over the crossbar and was chased and grounded by Tony Gigot before it rolled dead in goal. Hankinson added the conversion for 16-10, the Wigan players looking stunned.
With three minutes of the half remaining Tony Gigot kicked a drop goal from under the shadow of the posts to extend the lead to seven points. Gigot added another one-pointer on the next Toulouse attack on thirty-eight minutes, this one from twenty metres wide of the uprights.
It had been a stunning Toulouse fightback after looking a distant second best and going ten behind early on.
Cade Cust came to Wigan´s rescue on fifty when he won the race to ground a Harry Smith kick and got a hand on the ball. Hardaker managed to add the conversion to reduce the arrears to just two points.
It it was only brief respite for Wigan as they quickly gave up ground conceding a penalty, and Ashall-Bott went over in the corner through a non-existant Wigan defence for a very soft try. Hankinson was unable to add the conversion but on fifty-three minutes, Toulouse had a six-point lead.
A Gigot 40-20 put Toulouse on the front foot again. Three plays into the set and Armitage took the ball and went through four Wigan defenders for his second try of the night. Hankinson added the conversion for a twelve-point lead with twenty-two minutes remaining.
Liam Marshall stepped inside off a Kai Pearce-Paul pass for Wigan´s fourth try of the evening on sixty-two and muscled his way over. Hardaker added the conversion and again the margin was down to six points.
Gigot attempted a drop goal on sixty-five but the ball went wide of the uprights.
On the first tackle play from the back of the scrum Field picked up the ball and found a gap to go over in the corner. Hardaker added the conversion and once again the sides were level with seven minutes remaining.
Morgan Smithies lost the ball with a loose carry fifteen from his own line on seventy-six and on the last tackle a Gigot drop goal attempt was charged down by Joe Shorrocks who broke downfield as nerves frayed.
On the last tackle a Hardaker attempted drop goal was charged down but Wigan retailed possession with a minute left on the clock. With seconds remaining Harry Smith kicked a drop goal for a one-point victory.
This was a game that on paper Toulouse should never have won, but in reality, it was a game that they should never have lost. Apart from the opening few minutes, when Wigan raced into a ten point lead, the home side dominated in the forwards and showed more imagination in attack. Wigan will feel that they played their get out of jail free card, and Toulouse will feel that they were robbed, but an inability for Toullouse to get into a position for Gigot to kick the all-important drop goal in the dying seconds cost them the two points.
Toulouse Olympique XIII: Ashall-Bott (T), Russell, Hankinson (3G), Armitage (2T), Marcon, Albert, Gigot (T, 2DG), Garbutt, Pelissier, Navarrete, Stefani (T), Bretherton, Marion. Subs: Pezet, Sangare, Springer, Robson.
Wigan Warriors: Field (2T), Marshall (T), Pearce-Paul, Hardaker (T, 4G), Miski, Cust (T), Smith (DG), Singleton, Powell, Ellis, Farrell, Bateman, Smithies. Subs: Mago, Partington, Byrne, Shorrocks.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 4-10, 8-10, 10-10, 14-10, 16-10, 17-10, 18-10 : HT : 18-14, 18-16, 22-16, 26-16, 28-16, 28-20, 28-22, 28-26, 28-28, 28-29 : FT .
Referee: Aaron Moore.