Wigan's fire sees off weary Dragons

Wigan Warriors 44 Catalan Dragons 0

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The Independent Online

Wigan might have looked ominously low on energy since winning the Challenge Cup a month ago, but they showed no inclination to surrender the other major trophy they hold.

The reigning Super League champions had enough fuel in the tank to deal with a Catalan side that suddenly looked like the one needing a rest.

Wigan were not always close to their best, but some well-crafted tries gave them a cushion by the end of the first half that ensured they would move to within one match of a return to Old Trafford. Late in the game, playing against an exhausted defence, it was merely a question of how many they would score.

The Dragons have a history of significant victories over Wigan, including their inaugural fixture in 2006, the Challenge Cup semi-final a year later and a Super League double this season.

They were without the suspended David Ferriol, which would take some of the intimidation factor out of any team, while Wigan were hit by the late withdrawal of Lee Mossop.

You could interpret the decision to go for goal when Steve Menzies stripped the ball from Sean O'Loughlin after 90 seconds as evidence of some anxiety over the task ahead. Pat Richards, though, vindicated the policy by booting the penalty from 40 metres.

Wigan then had a couple of let-offs, the first when Sam Tomkins spilled a high kick straight into the arms of Thomas Bosc, only for his touchdown to be disallowed. Clint Greenshields was then inches short after a jinking run and pass from Ian Henderson.

Wigan were still not looking convincing, but a few minutes of inspiration put them in command. Tomkins is more renowned for his ability as a broken-field runner than for distribution, but it was his long pass that sent Josh Charnley in for the game's first try.

The Catalans had scarcely absorbed that when the champions struck again, Brett Finch slipping the perfect pass to put Ryan Hoffman through a gap.

The Dragons became even more convinced that the world was against them when they had another try disallowed, this time for Scott Dureau's marginally forward pass to Lopeni Paea.

Immediately before half-time came the real body-blow, in the shape of a beautifully constructed third Wigan try. Paul Prescott was the instigator with an immaculate pass out of the tackle, Thomas Leuluai chip-kicked and regathered and Liam Farrell was in support to guarantee the Catalans a bilingual roasting during the interval.

Richards kicked a fourth goal five minutes after the break, when Remy Casty went high on Jeff Lima. Richards also had a try disallowed for obstruction, as Wigan threatened to stretch an already convincing lead.

Too many of the Dragons' leading lights were quiet by their standards, and they fell further behind when Richards' little kick bounced for George Carmont.

Bosc's loose pass presented Finch with a gift try as the match continued its inexorable progress towards the sort of one-sided scoreline that has blighted this year's play-offs. More defensive chaos from Charnley's kick then gave Sam Tomkins the try he deserved. Harrison Hansen rounded it off, with Richards finishing with eight goals.

It was a frustrating way for a season of massive progress in Perpignan to end, but the message from Wigan was clear: you have to do something special to take our title away from us.

Wigan: S.Tomkins; Charnley, J.Tomkins, Carmont, Richards; Finch, Leuluai; Lima, McIlorum, Coley, Hansen, Hoffman, O'Loughlin. Subs used: O'Carroll, Prescott, Farrell, Tuson.

Catalans: Greenshields; Blanch, Sa, Millard, Stacul; Bosc, Dureau; Fakir, Henderson, Paea, Menzies, Casty, Mounis. Subs used: Pelissier, Raguin, Simon, Baitieri.

Referee: S.Ganson (St Helens)

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