Catalans Dragons 23 Wigan Warriors 32
Wigan scored six unanswered tries to pull off an incredible comeback in the south of France.
The Warriors trailed 21-0 early in the second-half but tries by Dan Sarginson, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess and Liam Farrell reeled in the Dragons’ lead to just three points.
Sam Tomkins then squeezed through a gap to put Wigan ahead - against the club he is expected to join next year.
Even then, it wasn’t the end of the drama, as the Warriors had to repel Catalans’ desperate late rally before Tony Clubb crashed over to seal an astonishing fightback.
The fixture after the congested Easter weekend can often be when teams struggle, and Wigan certain appeared to be weary as they trailed 15-0 at the break.
They fell further behind shortly after the restart before turning the game on its head, claiming two hard-fought points to keep the pressure on leaders St Helens.
The build-up of the game was inevitably dominated by Catalans’ pursuit of Sam Tomkins for next season - overshadowing the fact Micky McIlorum was facing his former club for the first time.
Both started for their sides, with Shaun Wane opting for four forwards on his bench - including Gabe Hamlin - and leaving out ex-Dragons livewire Morgan Escare. Sean O’Loughlin lined up at prop with John Bateman at loose-forward.
Wigan flew into the south of France earlier in the day - a ploy Wane prefers - and in warm, breezy conditions, made a solid start. Joe Burgess crossed in the ninth minute but a try was ruled out by the video referee, who ruled an obstruction in the build-up.
Catalans - who went into the game buoyed by their Monday victory against Huddersfield - began to wrestle control, dominating the exchanges down the middle and testing Wigan’s defence.
They opened their account in the 13th minute when good footwork from forward Benjamin Jullien broke the line and then wrong-footed a stranded Sam Tomkins. Tony Gigot converted - having had the tee delivered on a remote-controlled monster truck - to make it 6-0.
There were no more tries until the of the first-half, but some fierce exchanges - Sam Moa, in particular, put in some bruising challenges - and scares kept the spectacle entertaining.
Gigot booted the Dragons eight-points clear after referee Liam Moore penalised Liam Farrell for a ball steal on Remi Casty.
Tomkins took the sting out of an attack, carrying Brayden Williame into touch, but Wigan struggled to make any significant impression, even when the Dragons lost their hugely-influential captain Greg Bird. The Warriors lost a key player themselves, with George Williams going off and not returning.
Their one voyage close to the Dragons line ended with Dan Sarginson spilling a difficult pass. And then, just before half-time and having worked their way down field again, were caught by a sucker-punch when David Mead scooped up Tomkins’ angled grubber and raced the full length to score.
Gigot’s conversion - and drop-goal - saw the Dragons head into the changing room with a 15-0 lead.
Wigan’s situation worsened early into the second-half when Benjamin Garcia took an offload and crossed to put the hosts 21 points ahead. The Warriors, at least, reduced the damage with their first try. After testing the Dragons defence with some good shape, Dan Sarginson found space to cross for his first try since returning to the club - which was awarded after lengthy deliberation by the video referee Phil Bentham.
Ryan Sutton was placed on report for an off-the-ball tackle on Gigot, who kicked the subsequent penalty to make it 23-4.
But Wigan were rapidly improving, and they scored four tries in quick succession to dramatically turn the game on its head.
First, they broke from deep when Sean O’Loughlin, covering at stand-off, sent Oliver Gildart blazing down the touchline. He returned the pass, O’Loughlin flicked the ball on to Liam Farrell, who fed Gildart to score.
Catalans’ indiscipline frequently piggybacked the visitors down the field, where O’Loughlin and Tomkins orchestrated the attacks masterfully.
Three more tries down that edge followed as Joe Burgess arced over, O’Loughlin sent Farrell through a gap, and then Tomkins squeezed through a gap from close range.
In a nail-biting final 10 minutes, Iain Thornley gave his hometown club a scare when he powered for the line, only to be held up just short.
Catalans finished the match with 12-men when Michael Simon was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle, as Clubb crashed over to make the game safe.
In the curtain-raiser, Wigan’s Under-19s beat their Dragons counterparts 42-26. Aiden Rodden and James Worthington bagged two tries each. Ben Holcroft, Callum Green, Joe Brown and Sammy Kibula also crossed.
Catalans: Mead; Broughton, Thornley, Williame, Yaha; Gigot, Langi; Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Bird. Subs: Casty, Aiton, Bousquet, Baitieri.
Wigan: S Tomkins; Marshall, Sarginson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Powell; O’Loughlin, Leuluai, Flower, Isa, Farrell, Bateman. Subs: Clubb, Sutton, Navarrete, Hamlin.
Referee: Liam Moore
Starman: Sean O’Loughlin