A record-breaking crowd at the Nou Camp were treat to a dominant home display by Catalans against a Wigan side who still can’t seem to get it right. Here’s how the game unfolded.
A project well planned by the Dragons to take their game to their fans in Barcelona was met with a fantastic Dragons display and a great occasion to go with it. 31,555 fans turned up to see this fixture, which is a record attendance for Super League beating the previous best, 25,004 (Wigan-Saints in 2005), significantly.
Wigan will be wondering where it’s all going wrong for them this season as they fell to their ninth league defeat of the season so far.
This win takes Catalans up to third in the Super League table, which is a great position to be in at the halfway stage of the competition and a trip to Anfield for Magic Weekend on the horizon.
It was a nervy yet tense opening quarter whilst both sides settled into the historic fixture. Both sides lost key men pretty early on, with Catalans veteran Greg Bird going off with an arm injury and Wigan’s Joe Greenwood in agony with what looked like a serious knee problem.
Tony Gigot was first to get points on the board after he slotted over a penalty before Michael McIlorum burrowed his way through the Wigan defence to go in to score against his old side. With Gigot adding the extras, this gave the Dragons an 8-0 lead, arguably against the run of play.
Further into the half, Wigan continued to attack but were met by some impressive, solid Catalans defence. The Warriors were finally able to crack it just before the half-time hooter sounded when Liam Marshall raced down the right to go over in the corner. After Zak Hardaker converted, this gave Catalans a slender 8-6 lead going into half-time.
Wigan looked to have come out with a better attitude in the second half and within five minutes of the restart, Marshall was once again over but it was ruled out by the video referee.
Catalans then turned up their own performance and Wigan looked to be defeated already, with many of their players looking very tired. Three tries in just seven minutes from David Mead, Samisoni Langi and star forward Sam Kasiano, who Wigan had a torrid time of controlling during the entire match, gave Catalans a comfortable lead.
Gigot added a drop goal just after the hour mark to give them a strong 27-6 lead before Catalans were in again. Mead, on the back of a superb performance, collected a loose George Williams pass and ran in to score his second of the afternoon, giving the Dragons a 33-6 lead.
Wigan didn’t give up but it was a case of too little, too late for the Warriors. Oliver Gildart scored in the left corner after a disappointing afternoon for himself before Hardaker added one of his own right on the hooter to reduce the deficit, with Catalans eventually winning 33-16.
A strong Catalans performance across the field, every player played their part incredibly well but they looked disappointed that their defence had let in two consolation tries at the end.
On the other hand, Wigan will be left wondering why they still can’t put in an 80-minute performance and fans will be left thinking if Adrian Lam is actually the right man for the job or not. Several players are not playing to their full potential, with too many dropped balls across the field from key men.
Catalans’ strength in depth
Despite having no Sam Tomkins or Matty Smith, the Dragons are still able to produce quality decisions and plays without arguably their star halfback pairing. Starting with Gigot at fullback and Langi and Bird in the halves seemed to be an odd choice but even with Bird going off early on with an injury, they still managed to pull out that win.
Centre display excellent for Dragons
The return of David Mead adds another string to the Catalans bow as he is an excellent fullback/centre. He is dynamic in attack and seems to spot gaps that others don’t. Credit must also go to Brayden Williame, who seems to have improved massively in the past few months and is looking strong both in attack and defence now.
Wigan scratching heads
For some reason, this Wigan set-up isn’t working. The squad isn’t vastly different from the 2018 Grand Final-winning side but they just seem to be missing something. With George Williams’ pending move to Canberra and the possibility of Sean O’Loughlin and Tommy Leuluai retiring in the not-too-distant future, the Warriors need to start thinking about what options they have in such vital positions.
Expansion does work
For all those neigh-sayers who believe rugby league should stick to its Northern roots in England, this game was a turning point for the sport. Over 31,000 people showed up, including around 4,000 Wigan fans, to see a game of RL in such an iconic stadium. Catalans have really settled well in Super League since their introduction in 2006. Rugby league needs to expand to survive and who doesn’t want to get more fans involved in our wonderful game? For many of them, this could’ve been their very first live game and what an advert to entice them in.
Tries: Mead 2, McIlorum, Langi, Kasiano
Goals: Gigot 6
Drop Goals: Gigot
Tries: Marshall, Gildart, Hardaker
Goals: Hardaker 2
Drop Goals: n/a
Catalans: Gigot, Yaha, Mead, Wiliame, Tierney, Langi, Bird, Bousquet, McIlorum, Moa, Edwards, Whitley, Casty.
Interchanges: Garcia, Simon, Baitieri, Kasiano.
Wigan: Hardaker, Marshall, Sarginson, Gildart, Burgess, Williams, Leuluai, Flower, Powell, Navarrete, Isa, Greenwood, Clubb.
Interchanges: O’Loughlin, Hankinson, Tautai, Bullock.