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GUARDIAN VERDICT: Catalan Dragons 12 Warrington Wolves 14
TRIBUTE has to be paid to the Warrington Wolves pack after fending off the French bombardment and sending the club into the play-offs on a high.
As a 14-4 penalty count and vociferous home crowd mounted against them in treacherous monsoonal conditions, the big men never gave an inch.
Les Catalans desperately sought a levelling or winning score that would earn them a home play-offs tie but the primrose and blue forwards, equally hungry to show they mean business in the race to Old Trafford, met Dragon fire with Wolves ferocity.
Wolves’ middle men, led by the insatiable back row trio of Simon Grix, Ben Westwood and Trent Waterhouse as well as skipper Adrian Morley, aimed up in defence with such precision and crunch that they forced the home beefcakes into a high number of mistakes early in the tackle counts.
Their pounding of the Stade Gilbert Brutus surface water to chase an impeccable kicking game from Lee Briers was first class and crucial in such conditions that they could face again in the high stakes matches over the next month.
These were the winning factors. It was not a night for fancy Dans – basketball rugby, risky offloads or behind-the-man passes.
Catalan tried a bit of that with second-half breaks as they created overlaps to get round the outside of Rhys Evans on the right wing and it failed to pay off.
Yes, Warrington did ride their luck on those occasions – and when Dureau did a ‘Don Fox’ at rain-swept Wembley in 1968 by missing a late penalty that would have squared things.
Fortune also favoured the brave in the awarding of Stefan Ratchford’s first-half try after Micky Higham appeared to be offside in the build up.
But there was a suspicion of offside for Scott Dureau’s 80-metre interception effort that put Catalan back in it at 10-6 shortly before half time.
Both Steve Menzies and Ben Westwood appeared to have good claims for tries turned down in a first half of controversial decisions that did nothing to help Wolves silence the jeering and whistling home crowd.
The second half was a fierce tug of war, edging more and more in Catalan’s direction until Menzies touched down in his swansong league game.
But there was one mighty pull left in Wolves, clinical too as Ratchford and Brett Hodgson combined to send Chris Riley diving over into the swampy left-hand corner for what proved to be the winning score.
Wolves’ third win in past four visits to Stade Gilbert Brutus.
Least number of points Wolves have scored in a win since 14-10 league success away to Huddersfield Giants on February 28, 2010.
Twenty years after making his first-grade debut in Australia, Steve Menzies’ last league game is played against Warrington.
Joel Monaghan finishes joint second in the Super League try scoring charts with 23, level with Wigan’s Sam Tomkins and seven behind his clubmate Josh Charnley.
Super League Round 27
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Dragons: Brent Webb; Frederic Vaccari, Steve Menzies, Vincent Duport, Morgan Escare; Leon Pryce, Scott Dureau; Julian Bousquet, Ian Henderson, Remi Casty, Zeb Taia, Elliott Whitehead, Greg Mounis. Subs: Eloi Pelissier, Jamal Fakir, Lopini Paea, Benjamin Garcia.
Wolves: Brett Hodgson; Rhys Evans, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Chris Riley; Lee Briers, Stefan Ratchford; Paul Wood, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Ben Westwood, Trent Waterhouse, Simon Grix. Subs: Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper.
Scoring: Evans try, 14mins, 0-4; Ratchford try, 27mins, Hodgson conversion, 0-10; Dureau try, 35mins, Dureau conversion, 6-10; Menzies try, 63mins, Dureau conversion, 12-10; Riley try, 72mins, 12-14.
Penalties: Dragons 14 Wolves 4
Referee: Phil Bentham
Top Man: Simon Grix
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