Game two of Saturday at the Magic Weekend started with high expectations of a classic in the Newcastle sun as second placed Wigan Warriors faced a Catalans Dragons in third spot with both sides looking for the win to go to the top of the table, providing it was by enough points.
Wigan needed to win by more than eight points, while the Dragons needed a winning margin of more than fourteen, whoever won would then hope that Hull FC could do them a favour and record a second consecutive loss for the league leaders, the Warrington Wolves.
The Warriors were favourites for the win, the Dragons given a six-point start on the coupon, and those backing the Warriors would have been delighted to see the return of Jai Field to their ranks, but the Dragons had players returning too, including former Warriors favourite Sam Tomkins.
The game kicked off a little late after technical issues with the referees’ sound equipment.
Jai Field´s first real action of the game was to get pulled up for being offside on three minutes, Arthur Mourgue hitting the target with the penalty to open the scoring.
Jake Wardle picked up the first four pointer of the game on eight minutes on the back of some fast hands with the ball moved right to left, Wardle dipping his shoulder and coming inside with a man in support outside to go to ground and slide over. Harry Smith was wide with the kick, Wigan two points ahead.
The lead flipped on fourteen minutes with Sam Tomkins collecting a spilled kick just five metres from the Wigan line and took two steps before dotting down to give the Dragons the lead. Mourgue added the conversion for 8-4.
A flying Tom Johnstone leapt for the left corner flag and grounded one-handed before being bundled into touch. Mourgue was just wide of the left upright with his conversion attempt but the Dragons looking in charge.
The Dragons were in again on twenty-three with Matt Whitley taking a short pass just five from the line and pulling three tacklers with him to ground. Mourgue converted this time for 18-4, the Warriors with no answer to the Dragons tough questions.
The Warriors defence stood aside for Mourgue to get in on the try scoring act as he took a pass and evade the tacklers from ten metres out to go in on the angle. The Dragons starting to run rings around a confused Warriors defence. The Dragons full-back added the conversion for 24-4.
Harlem Globetrotters stuff from the Warriors on thirty-three with Bevan French finally crashing between two tacklers to force the ball onto the ground for Wigan’s second try of the game. Smith was again off target with the boot, Wigan still well adrift.
Within two minutes at the start of the second half the Dragons registered the first points with a sensational try form Johnstone, leaping to take a Tomkins kick to the corner and stepping past the last Warriors defender to score. Mourgue added the conversion from wide for 30-8, it was the worst possible start to the second half for Matt Peet´s side.
On fifty the Dragons were in again, Whitley taking a flat pass from Tomkins and going through a couple of lacklustre Wigan tackles to spin over the line for his second of the game. Mourgue was on target again for 36-8, the Warriors staring down the barrel of a thrashing.
The Dragons were queuing up to score. On fifty-four Arthur Romano took a miss out pass and again bisected a weak Wigan defence to go in for the seventh Dragons try of the afternoon. Mourgue banged his conversion through the centre of the uprights for 42-8.
Johnstone went Cirque du Soleil again on fifty-eight as he leapt for the left corner to score his hat-trick try despite the attentions of Abbas Miski. Mourgue was unable to add the extras but with twenty minutes to go the Wigan fans were starting to exit the stadium in disgust.
Some consolation on sixty-four minutes with Miski taking the ball in an acre of space, stepping inside and shirking off a high slap from Tomkins, to score in the corner. Harry Smith was again off target with the conversion but got another attempt after referee Moore awarded a penalty under the sticks for the high tackle in the act of scoring.
Four minutes from time, Liam Marshall reduced the arrears a little when he chased a pinpoint Smith kick over the top to collect and ground in goal. Jai Field had a stab at the conversion, but he was wide too.
An awful mistake from Johnstone, offloading in his own goal, allowed Morgan Smithies to dot down the loose ball for the final try of the game as the hooter sounded. Smith was again off target, Wigan without a real tee kicker, but the Dragons had a comfortable 46-22 win.
The Dragons put in an excellent performance against the side above them in the table and not only leapfrogged Wigan but also scored enough points to go ahead of the Warrington Wolves to the top of the pile, at least overnight. Steve McNamara will still have annoyances at his side performance but not as many as Wigan coach Peet who will be wondering what occasionally happens to his side, who are becoming unpredictable, and prone to getting it badly wrong.
Wigan Warriors: French (T), Miski (T), King, Wardle (T), Marshall (T), Field, Smith (G), Ellis, Powell, Byrne, Smithies (T), Farrell, Shorrocks. Subs: Cust, Mago, Hill, Nsemba. 18th Man: O’Neill.
Catalans Dragons: Mourgue (T, 7G), Johnstone (3T), Romano (T), Ikuvalu, Yaha, Pearce, Tomkins (T), Taukeiaho, McIlorum, Navarrette, Whitley (2T), McMeeken, Garcia. Subs: May, Bousquet, Seguier, Dezaria. 18th Man: Da Costa.
Score Progression: 0-2, 4-2, 4-6, 4-8, 4-12, 4-16, 4-18, 4-22, 4-24, 8-24 : HT: 8-28, 8-30, 8-34, 8-36, 8-40, 8-42, 8-46, 12-46, 14-46, 18-46, 22-46 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Catalans – Wigan – Catalans.
Referee: Liam Moore.