Wigan Warriors 42 Catalans 16

George Williams in action
George Williams in action

SHAUN Wane described their ultimately-comfortable victory in the capital a “win-win”.

On the field, Matty Bowen’s two tries - and seven goals - crowned a sparkling display which saw the Warriors cut the gap on league leaders Leeds to two points.

And off it, they attracted a crowd of more than 8,000 to Millwall’s The Den - which club bosses say vindicated their decision to stage the game in London.

Wane was a huge advocate of taking the match ‘on the road’ to attract new fans and sponsors.

And after seeing his side claim their sixth win from seven matches, he is even more convinced they need to persevere with the capital experiment.

He said: “If you’re a sporting fan you’d be impressed with the game today.

“If you look at the crowd, over 8,000, I’m proud to be British and to be introducing our club to the capital.

“It’s a win-win, the people who have travelled down had a great day, they’ll go back happy, and the people who have come along have watched some great play.

“I’m going to get shouted at by some people, but I think we need to spread the gospel of the best game in the world. There was a risk in bringing the game here, but it has to be long-term. It has to be carried on, and let’s grow it.”

The score was locked 12-12 early in the second-half, but Wigan finished strongly with five tries.

An arm-wrestle of an opening half saw Ben Flower open the score when he powered through the heart of the Dragons defence in the 15th minute. Bowen hit his first of seven perfect goals.

But Catalans soon drew level as a string of Wigan errors marched them down field, and Krisnan Inu’s stinging hand-off sent John Bateman sprawling - and cleared his path to the line.

A series of scrappy exchanges threatened to ruin the spectacle, but Wigan brought the game to life with a sparkling try in the 25th minute.

Captain Sean O’Loughlin sent George Williams into space, his inside pass found Bowen and the Australian No.1 scorched over for a try he converted to make it 12-6.

Catalans lost Louis Anderson to the sinbin after he kicked out at Sam Powell, but Wigan failed to make their numerical advantage count before the break.

And when Dureau raced over within seconds of the restart to lock the scores, they threatened to claim only their second win in England this year.

But Joel Tomkins’s rapid-fire pass to Bowen, running the perfect line on the inside, saw him arc under the sticks for his second try.

And then a weighted grubber by Williams threaded the ball through the defence and into the path of Oliver Gildart, who crossed for his second try in two matches. The 19-year-old centre - who made his Wigan debut in the 28-0 win at Warrington - kept hold of his place in the side, and again impressed.

Indeed, while Micky McIlorum returned to the line-up, fit-again Anthony Gelling and Joe Burgess were left out.

Jordan Sigismeau squeezed over in the corner to offer Catalans hope, but a magical Bowen run - weaving through five defenders on a 60m dash - set the stage for Josh Charnley to go over.

And with the Dragons’ resistance broken, Larne Patrick and Manfredi added further tries.

Catalans coach Laurent Frayssinous: “We left at 9am this morning, we knew at the end the last 20 minutes would be hard. I was pretty happy with the first 60 minutes.”

Wigan: Bowen; Charnley, Bateman, Gildart, Manfredi; Williams, Smith; Flower, McIlorum, Crosby, J Tomkins, Patrick, O’Loughlin. Subs: Powell, Clubb, Mossop, Tautai.

Catalans: Escare; Bosc, Gigot, Inu, Sigismeau; Carney, Dureau; Elima, Pelissier, Lima, Taia, Whitehead, Baitieri. Subs: Anderson, Bousquet, Robin, Margalet.

Referee: Ben Thaler.

Half-time: 12-6

Attendance: 8,101

Starman: Matty Bowen