Should the Warrington Wolves fail to win at the Catalan Dragons in the Saturday evening kick-off would end their forlorn hopes of the minor premiership and hand the first trophy of the season to St Helens.
More importantly a win would lift the Wolves six points clear of fourth place and put them within a couple of wins of a guaranteed home play-off berth. The Dragons knew that a win would lift them into the top five, at least until tomorrow’s game for the Castleford Tigers.
The Dragons welcomed the return of Greg Bird, Kenny Edwards and Samisoni Langi while the Wolves would hove to do without the services of the injured free-scoring Josh Charnley.
In sweltering temperatures in the Stade Gilbert Brutus, the home side took the lead thanks to the boot of Sam Tomkins after the Wolves had been caught offside by referee Child.
On fifteen there was a mass brawl after a high tackle by Chris Hill on Michel Simon. Hill and Michael McIlorum both saw yellow and took a ten minute rest, and Tomkins accepted the offer of a two pointer to double the lead. It was a sign of things to come.
An injury to Blake Austin on twenty-five was a big concern for the Wolves as he limped off the field after seeming to buckle his ankle.
The Wolves levelled the scores on twenty-six after Jake Mamo took a pass on the overlap, ran five metres, and ground one-handed. Stefan Ratchford pushed his kick across the front of the sticks, the sides sitting at 4-4.
Two superb bullet passes, the second perfectly placed from Tomkins, put Fouad Yaha over for the first Dragons try of the evening.Tomkins was unable to add the conversion from the left touchline.
It took Warrington just three minutes of the second half for Chris Hill to push his way over the line to make amends for his first half sin-binning. Back to back penalties had cost the Dragons field position and as Ratchford kicked the conversion the visitors were into a 10-8 lead.
David Mead regained the lead for the Dragons with a fifteen metre run for the line, avoiding the tackle of Dec Patton, to ground by the right corner flag. Tomkins kicked the touchline conversion for a 14-10 lead.
A fifty-sixth minute Tomkins penalty goal pushed the lead to six points.
Jake Mamo did brilliantly to chase David Mead for eighty metres and haul him down just short of the line but then blotted his copy book by stripping the ball and then being shown the yellow card by referee Child. Warrington down to twelve men until five minutes before the final hooter.
Tom Lineham stepped off the mark on sixty-six just ten metres from his own sticks and Tomkins kicked his fifth goal of the night to edge the Dragons into an eight point lead.
The points were sealed on seventy-two as Matt Whitley took a Tomkins pass to dive in at the corner. Tomkins slotted his conversion between the uprights from the touchline to give his side a 24-10 lead.
Tony Gigot grabbed himself a try on seventy-seven, collecting and grounding a McIlorum grubber kick by the left upright after the Wolves had been punished for a ball steal. Tomkins added the extras for 30-10, a very bad day at the office for an indisciplined Warrington.
The game ended in acrimony with two big fights, the final hooter sounding to end the second scrap. Trouble then broke out in the stands with fists being thrown. The outcome was red cards for McIlorum, for the initial high tackle, and Sam Tomkins for throwing punches. Warrington’s Mamo was also sin-binned, for the second time in the game.
This was a massively impressive win for the Dragons but marred by the disgraceful scenes at the end of the game from both sets of players and on the terraces. Tempers boiled over in the thirty plus degree temperatures much to the detriment of the game and the sport. Catalans ended the eighty with just eleven men on the pitch and there will be plenty for the disciplinary committee to look at and bring charges. Saints are minor premiers, the Dragons are into the play-off places.
If these two meet again in the play-offs it might be interesting.
Dragons: Tomkins (7G, SO), Mead (T), Langi, Wiliame, Yaha (T), Bird, Gigot (T), Bousquet, McIlorum (SB, SO), Simon, Whitley (T), Garcia, Casty. Subs: Edwards, Da Costa, Kasiano, Maria.
Wolves: Ratchford (G), Lineham, Goodwin, King, Mamo (SB, SB, T), Austin, Patton, Hill (SB, T), Clark D, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Clark J. Subs: Philbin, Akauola, Livett, Davis.
Referee: James Child.