By Alan Domville. Images by swpix
Warrington cruised to an emphatic victory over their Wembley opponents Catalans Dragons at The Halliwell Jones Stadium to improve their position at the top of the Betfred Super League with Castleford going down narrowly at Wigan and leaders St Helens also losing on the night.
In the opening fixture of the Super 8s both the Wire and the Dragons rested several players with the Challenge Cup showdown just two weeks away.
Eight Warrington players registered tries as they dominated the game from start to finish, conceding just one try to the French side near the end.
Wire head coach Steve Price took the opportunity to give Stefan Ratchford, Mike Cooper and Ben Murdoch-Masila a break.
Steve McNamara had also made several changes to the side that had stunned St Helens last weekend.
Mitch Brown, Tom Lineham, Toby King, Bryson Goodwin, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Declan Patton, Ben Westwood, Harvey Livett, Jack Hughes, Bodene Thompson
Subs: Joe Philbin, George King, Daryl Clark, Sitaleki Akauola
Tries: Charnley, Lineham (3), M Brown, K Brown, Roberts, T King, Patton, Philbin
Goals: Patton (8)
Robin Brochon, Iain Thornley, Vincent Duport, David Mead, Ugo Martin, Arthur Mourgue, Lucas Albert, Mickael Simon, Alrix Da Costa, Antoni Maria, Ugo Perez, Mickael Goudemand, Jason Baitieri
Subs: Remi Casty, Benjamin Garcia, Thibaut Margalet, Lambert Belmas
Lucas Albert got things underway kicking towards the West Stand and Warrington mounted their first offensive from deep to come close to the visitors’ line.
And in their next set they went ahead, slinging the ball quickly to the right with Tyrone Roberts selling a superb dummy to open up the defence and send Josh Charnley over in the corner. Harvey Livett was unable to convert.
The Wire kept up the pressure and mounted their next attack on the left flank but a speculative inside pass by Lineham to maintain the momentum went marginally forward.
Catalans were unfazed by the pressure at this stage and went on to force the Wire to make three drop-outs from their sticks in quick succession, Albert’s grubbers causing problems.
Soon afterwards the Wire suffered a blow when Livett sustained a knee injury. After treatment on the field he had to limp off; he was later spotted running along the touchline but he did not return to the action.
Charnley, Joe Philbin and Jack Hughes each made a telling break that sent Catalans back on the defensive again and Kevin Brown’s kick to the line forced a drop-out the other way.
After a third attempt to form a scrum near the visitors’ line Roberts made another try, this time serving Lineham who dived over in his corner. Patton improved from the touchline and the Wire had now regained the initiative.
Philbin made a superb dash over 20 metres from the restart, his tackler Ugo Perez requiring on-field treatment and a concussion test after the collision.
The next score came from a scrum 10 metres out, quick hands enabling Mitch Brown to crash over down the left channel. Patton’s conversion took the score to 16-0.
From the restart Sitaleki Akauola copied Philbin’s example with a fine drive from his line and he figured again in the set that took the Wire back on the offensive.
A fine break and offload by Charnley to Mitch Brown, a penalty and more quick hands resulted in Lineham’s second touchdown.
Patton’s extras made it 22-0 and Wire were possibly denied another score when Mitch Brown was hauled down inches from the line as the hooter sounded for the break.
Warrington restarted where they left off in the first period. From a scrum 10 metres out, Akauola was held on the line but Roberts proved to be a try-maker again, sending Kevin Brown racing through the Dragons’ defence with ease to score.
Patton’s conversion took the score to 28-0 and his kick to the line soon afterwards would have brought another score had possession not been lost.
Albert, having been the outstanding Catalans player with his fine kicking game, then booted the ball out on the full to give the Wire another scoring opportunity but a Roberts’ grubber was collected by a defender.
But the next home score wasn’t far away. A Kevin Brown kick over the top was chased by Roberts and the scrum half was able to collect and dart between the posts. Patton obliged again with the conversion and it was 34-0.
The lead was extended to 40 points when Charnley broke down the right to send Toby King over and Patton was on target again.
There was almost a repeat performance from the two Wire three-quarters immediately afterwards but King just failed to hold Charnley’s pass after a determined juggle.
Garcia then raced over the whitewash but he knocked on in the act of scoring.
More points accrued for Warrington when Patton dashed 40 metres to score a try which he converted to take the score to 46-0 and straight away the 50 mark was reached when Philbin was rewarded for his typically gutsy performance by racing under the posts. Patton’s kick added to the rout and there were still 12 minutes left.
Another towering kick from Kevin Brown was chased by Bryson Goodwin who collected the ball amid heavy traffic but he just failed to hold on to it.
Credit to Catalans, they had stuck at the task and they gained a little consolation for their efforts when David Mead was able to touch down, Albert adding the goal points.
They almost scored again but the referee ruled a forward pass to Robin Brochon.
With just over a minute left Lineham completed his hat trick finishing off another superb move in the corner.
While the team changes for both sides meant this could hardly be described as a rehearsal for Wembley, Warrington had given themselves a great psychological fillip – and the fans some great entertainment.