Hock helps Wigan slay the Dragons...
Wigan 36 Catalan Dragons 12
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
The DW Stadium
Monday 05 March 2012
The Wigan coach, Shaun Wane, called for Gareth Hock to be re-instated as a Test player after he played a leading role in ending the Catalans' perfect start to the season. Hock had one of his best games since returning last season from a two-year drugs ban, showing perfect timing with an England squad to be named tomorrow.
"If I was Steve McNamara, I'd be looking at him," Wane said. "He's a threat. He's big and strong and skilful for a back-row forward." Wane is adamant that Hock is not back to his best form. "He played well, but he made a few errors as well. He's striving for the perfect performance."
If Hock did not achieve that, he was part of a pack that made sure the Dragons would not do to them what they did to St Helens last weekend.
"I thought their forwards dominated our forwards," said the French club's coach, Trent Robinson.
That, for all the ingenuity his side showed with the ball, was enough to determine the result.
The Dragons did a league double over Wigan last season, before coming spectacularly unstuck here in the play-offs. The setting held no terrors for them, then, in a first half that they edged.
Both sides squandered early chances, the stand-in Wigan centre Jack Hughes dropping the ball with the Catalan line open and Scott Dureau knocking on after intercepting a Wigan pass. Dureau, an early candidate for player of the year, who put his side ahead with a penalty.
That lead did not last long, before Brett Finch sent in Thomas Leuluai for the game's first try. That was soon cancelled out by the game's outstanding moment of craft. Dureau began it by opening up the blind side for Setaimata Sa and Vincent Duport and he was there in support to complete a lovely piece of unorthodox attacking play. Sam Tomkins put Pat Richards over for a try that restored Wigan's lead, but the Catalans were back in front by half-time through a messy try, Gregory Mounis forcing the ball down.
A spate of penalties at the start of the second half, however, hurt the Dragons' cause immeasurably.
"They started to dominate the rucks, got a bit of field position and put some pressure on our line," said Robinson. That brought Hughes a first try for Wigan, followed by Josh Charnley's first of the game. Michael McIlorum burst through the middle to set up O'Loughlin and Charnley got his ninth of the season.
"If anyone had offered me that scoreline before the match, I'd have snatched their hand off," Wane said. "We could even have won by more."
Wigan: Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Hughes, Richards; Finch, Leuluai; Mossop, McIlorum, Lauaki, Hansen, Hock, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used: Tuson, Farrell, Lima, Flower.
Catalan Dragons: Greenshields; Blanch, Baile, Millard, Duport; Bosc, Dureau; Paea, Henderson, Casty, Sa, Anderson, Baitieri. Substitutes used: Ferriol, Mounis, Pryce, Fakir.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield)
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