It wasn’t as bad as 2012, but the mighty Wire have had our arses handed to us in Perpignan again.
After the efforts of last weekend, this fixture was always going to be tough, and Todd Carney follows in the tradition of the likes of Andy Farrell, Paul Sculthorpe and Adrian Lam of star players returning from injury just in time to play Wire off the park.
The former NSW stand off looks trim this year after trying Peter Kay’s diet technique, and lived up to his billing as short-priced favourite to win the Man of Steel award this year. Like Luke Walsh last season, his debut in Super League highlighted the major problem we have as a club at the minute – the lack of a genuine, top class half back.
Carney did little spectacular all game, but he did the basics impeccably and he did them regularly.
We were missing Ratchford again – and again we were missing a full back who can contribute a killer pass (or a pass at all) when he combines with the halves. Penny’s enthusiasm is wonderful to see and no doubt up lifting, while in open space, his speed can be deadly, but what he lacks is game awareness and ball handling ability that are so important for the modern full back role.
It was odd to see Russell stood on the left wing all game. You’d have thought he would have swapped with Penny, even if just for a short spells, to offer something different, but it wasn’t to be.
Things got off to a shite start when Willie Tonga waltzed past Joel Monaghan down the Catalans’ left hand side to score after just eight minutes.
The Dragons were gifted the field position that led to that first score after Ben Thaler seemed to remember to punish holding down in the tackle, when he punished Chris Hill for messing up Ian Henderson’s already shite hair.
The hosts could have doubled their lead moments later, but their three man overlap went to waste when Carney’s pass drifted forward near the try line. It was a rare let off for the Wire, as Carney and Dureau capitalised on their good field position for most of the afternoon.
For the most part, they had created most of it, too. To say their kicking game was far superior to ours is to do it a disservice; Warrington’s kicking game was non-existent, whereas Catalans’ kicking game was world class. Pin point, smart and dangerous, Carney and Dureau practically kicked us to death behind a dominant forward pack that was on the front foot for all but 10 minutes of the game.
Carney’s 40/20 from deep inside own half, from dummy half, on the third tackle, the perfect example of the difference in kicking game. We rarely put in a kick that landed in space all game.
There was a brief moment of hope when Chris Hill crashed over the try line from short range, but Morgan Escare held him up brilliantly and denied the big prop a try that could have changed the momentum of the game.
As was the nature of proceedings, Catalans were soon over for a try of their own minutes later when they worked a good overlap from centre field and shifted the ball wide. Daryl Clark shot out of the line and left Atkins and Russell exposed out wide, allowing Mike Oldfield to touch down in the corner for the first of his two tries. The try took some finishing and his spectacular dive looked good for the cameras, but he shouldn’t have been given enough space to get over in the corner.
Vincent Duport’s try – and Dureaus’s goal – made it 18-0 on the stroke of half-time. The big centre strolled in for a simple score when he brushed off the weak defensive attempt of Gary Wheeler after Wire spilled the ball in our own half.
We looked like a totally different team in the first ten minutes of the second half. In fact, by the time Gary Wheeler touched down to make it 18-12, there was genuine hope of a comeback.
Gareth O’Brien made a break just after the restart and slipped a neat pass inside to the supporting Wheeler, who unsurprisingly didn’t have the pace to make it to the try line.
From the next play, we tried to shift the ball wide but a poor pass saw Dureau attempt an interception. Thankfully, he knocked on and from the resulting scrum, Ryan Atkins ran across the line and attracted a few defenders before slipping a nice offload to Joel Monas, allowing the skipper to touch down for his first try of the season and end the most baron scoring spell of his time at Wire.
From the kick off, academy prospect Joe Philbin made a clean break and lifted the side. The momentum seemed totally behind the visitors when we were awarded a penalty and enjoyed a spell of pressure that culminated in the first goal line drop out of the game.
We crossed from the resulting repeat set; Willie Tonga realised he was offside when a teammate knocked Monaghan’s attempted pass down and choosing to leave the loose ball, allowing Gary Wheeler to scoop up and walk in untouched after everyone else on the pitch stood still and waited for Thaler’s whistle.
That ten minute burst was about all we had, though and normality soon resumed when Catalans went down field and were awarded a penalty for a Micky Higham high shot right on the try line. Scott Dureau nudged over the two points, which seemed a bit of a let off considering their field position and superiority in converting chances.
They didn’t have to wait too long to further extend their lead, though. Matty Russell spilled the ball on the hosts’ try line and was soon defending his own line as Escare scampered downfield before releasing to Oldfield. He was eventually stopped, but it just delayed the inevitable, as Zeb Taia strolled in past Monaghan and Wheeler after the ball was shifted wide.
Taia was over for his second a minute later, when Todd Carney collected Dureau’s pass on the loop behind a lead runner and broke through the line who misread the play horribly before slipping a ball inside for the big back rower to complete the easiest double he is likely to score in his career.
As the clock ticked down, Warrington were given a penalty and used the good position wisely for a change; holding good shape, the ball was shifted through hands and Wheeler’s short pass found Philbin bursting through the gap to crash over for a deserved score.
It was merely consolation and Oldfield rubbed more salt into the wounds in the last minute when he outjumped Russell on the wing to collect Dureau’s pinpoint kick and complete the scoring.