Wigan Warriors 12 Catalans Dragons 8: Impressive victory a week before the play-offs

The boot of Zak Hardaker ultimately proved decisive as a weakened Wigan ensured they will head into the play-offs on the back of an impressive victory.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:45 pm
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 9:46 pm
Wigan players celebrate Willie Isa's first-half try

A healthy 12,852 crowd - bolstered by hundreds of free tickets to key workers - saw Adrian Lam's side register their first win against a top-three side this year.

Willie Isa scored in the first-half and James McDonnell also went over for an impressive effort after the break.

Catalans responded each time with a try of their own but, crucially, James Maloney failed to land any of his conversions - allowing the Warriors to clinch a deserved, gutsy win.

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Both sides knew they couldn't shift from their league positions whatever the result but as dead rubbers go, this was thoroughly entertaining.

And from Wigan's perspective, it was a hugely encouraging display a week before their play-offs showdown with Leeds.

McDonnell, Isa and Ollie Partington were excellent and their kicking game - which featured two 40-20s - was arguably the best all year, with Jackson Hastings pulling the strings masterfully.

As predicted, Lam rested six senior players - Liam Farrell, John Bateman, Morgan Smithies, Brad Singleton, Sam Powell and Liam Marshall - to freshen them up for the start of the play-offs next week.

That decision opened up chances for little-used Mitch Clark, Tony Clubb and McDonnell while Isa returned from a four-game ban and led the side out as captain.

Catalans' line-up featured ex-Warriors Micky McIlorum, Tom Davies, Sam Tomkins and brother Joel - in possibly his last game at the DW Stadium.

Wigan went into the game knowing they had not beaten any of the top-three sides this year; by half-time, they appeared on course to break that duck.

They led 6-0 at the break courtesy of Willie Isa's converted try, and both sides carved out more half-chances than the scoreline suggests.

Among the hosts' bright points, Oliver Gildart looked sharp, Sam Halsall and Jake Bibby had their moments, Ollie Partington led from the front and Jackson Hastings pulled the strings with efficiency.

Catalans had their chances, too, but far too often their good work was unpicked by a spill or stray ball.

Isa provided the breakthrough in the 27th minute, chasing Hastings' stabbed kick and grounding the ball. With Zak Hardaker tagging on the extras, they led 6-0.

Catalans' hopes of responding took a blow with Sam Tomkins withdrawing, but soon after the restart they reeled in Wigan's lead to two points when Mike McMeeken charged through an opening, drew in Hardaker and passed to the supporting Davies to slide over for an unconverted try.

The game continued to ebb and flow before Wigan extended their advantage, McDonnell bursting through, blazing for the line and bumping off the last defender to score his first try for the club. Hardaker's goal opened up an eight-point gap with 15 minutes to go.

Wigan's errors, though, invited their opponents into their half and Matthieu Laguerre was on hand to ground a hacked-on ball. James Maloney missed the conversion, giving the Warriors a four-point advantage.

Catalans finished the match with 12-men as Sam Kasiano was sin-binned for dissent and in a frantic finish, Hardaker spilled the ball with the line at his mercy.

Wigan: Hardaker; Bibby, Isa, Gildart, Halsall; Smith, Hastings; Bullock, Shorrocks, Clubb, Pearce-Paul, McDonnell, Partington. Subs: Byrne, Clark, Havard, O'Neill

Catalans: S Tomkins; Davies, Langi, Whare, Laguerre; Maloney, Drinkwater; Dudson, McIlorum, Bousquet, Whitley, J Tomkins. Subs: Mourgue, Goudemand, Garcia, Kasiano

Referee: James Child

Half-time: 6-0

Attendance: 12,852