MAKE no mistake about it – Catalans Dragons were the better side at Wembley and deserved to return to France with the Challenge Cup in tow.

For The Wire, though, it does not make the pain of a second cup final loss in three years any easier to bear.

What will make it tougher to bear for the Warrington players is knowing how much better they could have been.

To a man, they had all said they were anticipating a fast start from Catalans but that they were ready for it and were prepared to meet fire with fire.

Sadly, the reality was the exact opposite.

Falling behind in the second minute to a side that prides itself on operating at a high completion rate is asking for trouble and so it proved.

For the first 20 minutes, Warrington were shellshocked and it left them with too much to do.

The battle of the packs was highlighted as a key area of this Challenge Cup Final, and there can be no doubt that Wolves lost it.

Time and again, Catalans dominated the tackle and earned the right to play the game at their own pace.

Their completion rate in the first half was perfect. Literally. 19 sets started, 19 finished.

At any level that is remarkable. To do it on such a big stage owed so much to the work of Josh Drinkwater, Michael McIlorum, Samisoni Langi and Lance Todd Trophy winner Tony Gigot.

They were able to control the game in a way that Kevin Brown and Tyrone Roberts simply could not.

Granted, they were working behind a beaten pack, but a lot will be made of their failure to manage possession and come up with meaningful last-tackle options when this game is analysed.

To Warrington’s eternal credit, they turned the tide and spent the final quarter of the game camped in Catalans territory, but it was too little, too late.

They needed someone to step up and make a game-changing play, much like Gigot had done at a crucial stage just after half time when his nonchalant 40-20 set up position for Brayden Wiliame to score what turned out to be the crucial try.

Warrington needed a hero, but one never came.

Now, they face the challenge of raising themselves for the back end of the Super League season.

What cannot be allowed to happen is for this defeat – as devastating as it is – to be the catalyst for this highly promising campaign to fizzle out.

Easier said than done…


. Wire lose their second Challenge Cup Final in three years

. Ben Westwood becomes the first player to appear in five Challenge Cup Finals for Warrington.

. Catalans the first French club to win the Challenge Cup


Challenge Cup Final, Saturday, August 25, 2018

Catalans Dragons...20 Warrington Wolves...14

Dragons: Tony Gigot; Lewis Tierney, David Mead, Brayden Wiliame, Fouad Yaha; Samisoni Langi, Josh Drinkwater; Mickael Simon, Micky McIlorum, Sam Moa, Benjamin Jullien, Ben Garcia, Remi Casty. Subs: Julian Bousquet, Jason Baitieri, Kenny Edwards, Mickael Goudemand.

Wolves: Stefan Ratchford; Josh Charnley, Toby King, Bryson Goodwin, Tom Lineham; Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts; Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Harvey Livett, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood. Subs: Ben Murdoch-Masila, George King, Dec Patton, Joe Philbin.

Scoring: Tierney try, 2mins, Drinkwater, 6-0; Drinkwater penalty goal, 7mins, 8-0; Murdoch-Masila try, 28mins, Roberts goal, 8-6; Garcia try, 34mins, Drinkwater goal, 14-6; Wiliame try, 45mins, Drinkwater goal, 20-6; George King try, 56mins, Roberts goal, 20-12; Roberts penalty goal, 70mins, 20-14

Penalties: Dragons 7 Wolves 9

Referee: Robert Hicks

Attendance: 50,672