By Rachel Arnett (images by swpix)
Warrington Wolves hosted French side Catalans Dragons at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in the final home game of the regular season, in warm conditions, under grey skies.
The Wire went in on the back of a narrow away defeat to local rivals Wigan Warriors last week; the home side claiming victory with a one-pointer in the final seconds of the game. Coach Steve Price brought Harvey Livett back into the starting 13, Sitaleki Akauola moving on to the bench. Ben Pomeroy also returned. Mitch Brown and Dominic Crosby missing out from last week’s side.
The last time the two sides met back in March the Wire ran out winners, nilling the Dragons at the Stade Gilbert Brutus. But going into this game the Dragons had won seven of their last eight Super League games, the latest being last week away to Wakefield.
The first half was an evenly fought contest, three tries apiece, just one goal the difference. Goodwin, Charnley and Livett crossing for the tries; Roberts with the goal-kicking boot on.
The second half continued in the same vein with the only points added coming from penalty kicks. Charnley came close to scoring in the corner with less than five minutes to go but the decision was no try and the sides had to settle for a draw and a point apiece.
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Josh Charnley, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Harvey Livett, Jack Hughes, Ben Westwood
Interchanges: Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Sitaleki Akauola, Ben Pomeroy
Tries: Goodwin, Charnley, Livett
Goals: Roberts (5)
Tony Gigot, Lewis Tierney, David Mead, Brayden Wiliame, Fouad Yaha, Samisoni Langi, Josh Drinkwater, Remi Casty, Michael McIlorum, Mickael Simon, Benjamin Jullien, Ben Garcia, Greg Bird
Interchanges: Julian Bousquet, Sam Moa, Kenny Edwards, Jason Baitieri
Tries: Jullien, McIlorum, Gigot
Goals: Drinkwater (5)
Sin Bin: Mickael Simon (69 minutes)
Ratchford got the game underway and the Dragons built some early pressure with a kick from Drinkwater skipping up a few metres out, the Wire fullback on hand to collect and defuse things.
A high kick from Langi ricocheted and in the favour of the Dragons earning them a scrum 10 metres out after just five minutes. Former Wire second rower Jullien took advantage of a gap opening up to the right to fly over for the opening try. Drinkwater added the conversion. 0-6
On 15 minutes the Wire built up some momentum, switching out the left edge forcing a drop-out after a kick from Brown. And it was another kick from Brown that served up the home side’s first try, Goodwin following it up well to beat the chasing defence to score. Roberts added the goal to level things. 6-6
The Dragons followed this up by opting to go for goal on the back of a penalty, Drinkwater kicking it from 30 metres out to edge the lead. 6-8
A loose ball from the Dragons was capitalised on by Livett on half way. Play moved to the right and a well-timed offload from Roberts to Ratchford opened up a gap for a long pass out to Charnley on the edge to run in for the try. The conversion attempt was missed. 10-8
On 25 minutes the Wire were determined to push for the line. On the last a Roberts’ kick to the corner was patted back by Charnley. The Wire then kept the ball alive out to the left before it went to ground but a chip from Ratchford was scooped up by Livett who had the twist to get the ball down over the line. Great work; the video referee confirmed the score. Roberts added the conversion. 16-8
Minutes later at the opposite end of the field the Dragons responded with a try of their own, breaking the line before McIlorum reached out of the tackle to get the ball down for the try. Drinkwater added the extras. 16-14
On 33 minutes Roberts lined up for a penalty goal, from in front, after a high shot run in by Edwards. The two points were added 18-14
However with just over two minutes to the break a grubber kick from Drinkwater was followed up well by Gigot and, after a look by the video referee, the visitors drew level. Drinkwater added the extras to edge the lead 18-20
The heavens opened at the start of the second half (a sight not seen for a while after all the sunny weather).
A knock-on from the Wire gave the Dragons an early scrum from 10 metres out but a soft pass to their left was scooped up by the home side, out to Charnley on the right who gathered some pace and regained control of the attack. On 45 minutes Roberts lined up another penalty kick after the Dragons were pulled up for a challenge when going for the high ball. The goal levelled the game at 20-20.
On 54 minutes the Wire chose to go for another two points from in front of the sticks after the Dragons took too long to get up at play the ball. Roberts slotted over the goal to take the lead 22-20.
The race was on a few minutes later when the Dragons put in a grubber kick to the in-goal area; the video referee took a look to see who got there first, or did it beat them both? It was ruled a no try and a drop-out for the Wire.
On 65 minutes the Wire fans applauded a 40:20 kick from Patton before falling silent when the scrum was given to the Dragons; it must have only been millimetres out to have been denied.
The Dragons continued to build back-to-back periods of pressure for the Wire to defend as the final 10 minutes of the game approached.
The visitors went down to 12 men when Simon was sent to the sin bin for his attempt on Charnley when making a tackle. But almost immediately it was Drinkwater lining up for a penalty goal to make it 22-22 with 10 to go.
It was the Dragons who were first to go for the drop-goal attempt, drifting wide from Gigot.
With five minutes left on the clock, the Wire fans erupted as Charnley powered down the right edge chasing a kick from King. It was referred to the video referee only to be chalked off on closer inspection.
A drop goal attempt then came this time from Roberts, but no.