Wigan exhibit Noble's art

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The Independent Online

Wigan had the last laugh on Super League rookies Catalans Dragons after their campaigns came to an end in contrasting fashion.

The Frenchmen kicked off the season back in February with a 38-30 win over the Warriors on a memorable night in Perpignan, but they ended it with an abject performance in a 60-12 hammering at Leeds on Friday night.

While the wooden spoonists were going down to the worst defeat of their inaugural season, Wigan were completing a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes with a 38-16 victory over second-placed Hull.

An imperious kicking display from the former Catalans scrum-half Michael Dobson helped Brian Noble's men finish a rollercoaster season in some style with a 10th win from their last 12 matches. Dobson, Iafeta Paleaaesina and Chris Ashton (two) grabbed the Wigan tries in a one-sided first half, with the youngster Matt Dale registering Hull's only mark on the scoreboard.

Further tries from Harrison Hansen and Nathan McAvoy, who later announced that he would be staying at the JJB Stadium next season, put the game beyond doubt at 34-4, and although Motu Tony and Shaun Briscoe helped restore some degree of respectability to the scoreboard, Gareth Hock's late try rounded off a great night for the home side in front of another bumper crowd of 16,554.

Hull's defeat was their second in six days, but they now have a week off to prepare for their qualifying play-off against table-toppers St Helens on Friday week. "It was disappointing," admitted their coach, Peter Sharp."We made errors in defence that we haven't made all year. We need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and get on with it, because we're still in the race. It's a semi-final, for a place in the Grand Final. We'll be there, don't you worry. Tell St Helens we'll be there."

Hull finished just two points ahead of Leeds, who bounced back from their mauling at Saints to put 10 tries past the Catalans for the second time. Their 20-year-old full-back Jordan Tansey grabbed a first-half hat-trick, and Great Britain stand-off Danny McGuire also got on the scoreboard on his return from injury.

McGuire, out for six weeks with shin splints, got his 24th touchdown of the season before being taken off after 63 minutes, and that left the Dragons winger Justin Murphy in pole position to claim the £1,000 prize for Super League's top scorer. Murphy gained some consolation for the Catalans' humiliation by claiming his 25th try of the season, which means that the St Helens winger Ade Gardner must score a hat-trick against Warrington today to earn a share of the spoils.

"Danny missed out on his top try-scoring feat, but I did not want him to run out of petrol," said the Leeds coach, Tony Smith. "There are bigger things that Danny would like to pick up this year. He felt fine and looked sharp. We thought if we could get 60 minutes out of him it would be fantastic."

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