Big day for Catalans to end good-news, bad-news week

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The Independent Online

It has been an eventful nine days in the short life of the Catalan Dragons, with the loss of their on-field general balanced by the news that they have signed up the coach they want.

The French side will again be without their captain and inspiration, Stacey Jones, at Castleford today, but they now at least know that Mick Potter will be arriving to direct operations in two weeks or so.

Jones' arm obeyed that sub-clause of Sod's Law that says that the more you rely on a player, the more likely he is to get injured, when it snapped at Salford last Friday. The news could be worse; Jones could be back within two months - and the Catalans will be counting every day. By the time he returns, Potter should be nicely settled into his job - one that he has looked destined to fill since he emerged as a leading candidate more than a month ago.

He had a distinguished playing career, mainly with Canterbury and St George, and was highly rated as assistant to Matthew Elliott at Bradford from 1996 to 1999. Since then, he has built his reputation as No 2 at the now merged St George-Illawarra club. He was clearly a head coach in waiting, although he might not have expected his chance to arise in France. "These opportunities don't come up very often - and this is a unique opportunity," Potter said. "Taking this job took a lot of thought, but it gives me the chance to do something a little bit different."

Potter has stepped into the unknown before, as captain of the short-lived Western Reds in Perth. "I've got a few insights into a new organisation and its teething problems," he said. "I can't wait to get started." He intends to arrive in France after the Catalans' next home game against Bradford, stay for the Leeds game the following week and then go home to tie up a few loose ends.

With demanding fixtures like that in the pipeline, it is doubly important that the Dragons perform well today, in a match that the Cas coach, Terry Matterson, sees as the chance to get their season started. The Tigers have started life in Super League with heavy defeats by Hull and St Helens. "We've let in 16 tries in our first two matches and that's the first thing we've got to fix," Matterson said. "We need to improve and if we lift our performance the results will follow."

It has been a potentially unsettling week for Matterson, who has been linked with two of the coaching vacancies for next season, at Canberra and Newcastle. He has reiterated his commitment to Castleford, but his contract depends on keeping them in Super League. He knows that he would have a far better chance of doing that if he had a genuine playmaker in his side, but the club's interest in bringing Danny Orr back from Wigan has so far come to nothing.

The New Boys: Tadulala wings past Quins to get Trinity off mark

Harlequins are still without a win after the Fijian winger Semi Tadulala's hat-trick inspired Wakefield to a 26-6 success, their first of the season.

The Wildcats had lost their first two games to Bradford and Hull, but were always too strong for Quins once Tadulala went over twice in the first 10 minutes at the Twickenham Stoop.

Quins had not even handled the ball when quick Wakefield hands down the left gave Tadulala the simple task of finishing from five yards after two minutes. Seven minutes later he added his second when he got on the end of David March's grubber kick to touch down in the same corner.

Quins' New Zealand scrum-half Thomas Leuluai should have reduced the arrears in the 15th minute, but he lost possession with the try-line beckoning. Wakefield stretched their lead in the 27th minute when Tony Clubb dropped the ball two yards from his own line and Sam Obst gleefully accepted the gift. March slotted over the conversion after missing his first two attempts from the touchline.

Quins, again without their influential skipper Mark McLinden, improved before the break with the centre Tyrone Smith and Lee Hopkins being held up on the line.

The Wildcats lost John Whittle early in the second period after he fell awkwardly under a tackle, but Colum Halpenny sealed the win with the fourth try of the afternoon. After another slick passing move, Halpenny was put clear and, despite juggling the ball, he managed to touch down. Ben Jeffries added a close-range penalty to make it 20-0 and Tadulala completed his haul six minutes from time after David Solomona offloaded in the tackle.

Quins finally got on the scoresheet when Mark Tookey evaded two tackles and touched down under the posts with Paul Sykes adding the conversion, but it was no more than a consolation. Wakefield had the final say when Jeffries added a penalty.

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