Catalans powered past Wigan 33-16 with a dominant second half performance to send the locals home happy in a Super League record crowd at the Nou Camp.
The game was finely poised at 8-6 at half-time after Liam Marshall’s score two minutes before the break, but the Dragons cut loose scoring three tries in an eight-minute spell that ended Wigan’s resolve.
Man of the match Sam Kasiano was rampant and it was him crashing over under the sticks on 56 minutes that virtually ended the game as a contest at 26-6 and helped lift the Dragons up to third in the Super League table.
The pattern of the game looked clear from the start with Wigan aiming to go wide around Catalans’ huge pack, which was playing in front of Greg Bird in at half-back alongside Samisoni Langi in the absence of Sam Tomkins and Matty Smith.
The ball went to ground on a number of occasions early doors as both sides tried to play their way in to the game, with the Dragons having a few more looks, winger Liam Marshall dropping a kick under pressure.
They eventually made the territory pay, Tony Gigot knocking over a penalty from bang in front of the posts after Wigan had been pegged for lying on Sam Moa.
Any hope that would lay the foundations for a platform to build on was soon quashed as Catalans dropped the kick-off, leading to Wigan’s first real spell of pressure.
George Williams’ long pass to Joe Burgess on the left looked like it may open up the Dragons defence, but they scrambled across well and a few minutes later Sam Powell was held up over the line.
Wigan were probing the line and on 14 minutes, a Thomas Leuluai kick through was grounded in goal by Remi Casty under pressure from Joe Greenwood, who would soon be helped off the field with a nasty looking injury.
Having weathered the storm, Catalans would score the first rugby league try at the Nou Camp on 21 minutes, former Wigan hooker Micky McIlorum going over from dummy half under pressure from Williams and Zak Hardaker.
The introduction of Sam Kasiano enabled Catalans to consolidate their 8-0 lead, that was until two minutes before half time.
Wigan shifted the ball right to Dan Sarginson, there was a hint of a forward pass as he released winger Marshall on his outside, but he didn’t stop to ask questions, backing himself to round Gigot close to the touchline and get the Warriors on the board for 8-6 at the break.
The perhaps pivotal moment in the match came four minutes following the restart, Wigan again finding space on the right hand side, Sarginson passing maybe a fraction too early to Marshall who finished acrobatically in the corner, only for the video referee to find that he had put a foot in touch.
On 48 minutes a mistake by skipper Sean O’Loughlin, who lost the ball in a tackle barely 20 metres from his own line, enabled Kasiano to gain possession, fend off Williams and then put David Mead in to slide over.
Wigan were starting to look battered and bruised against a tough Catalans outfit, and the Dragons kept the scoreboard ticking over with a Gigot penalty on 51 minutes.
From the kick-off, they broke through Brayden Wiliame on the left and a couple of tackles later Langi crashed over from a short ball under the attention of three defenders.
The momentum was well and truly with Catalans and they added another score on 56 minutes, no stopping Kasiano off a short ball under the posts.
That was all but the game done in front of a record crowd of 31,555 – beating the previous best set at Wigan’s DW Stadium back in 2005 at 25,004 – with Gigot knocking over a drop goal for 27-6 shortly after.
A quiet spell followed as both sides went through the motions, that was until the 69th minute when a try that pretty much summed up the Warriors’ second half came when Chris Hankinson spilled a pass under little pressure and Mead sweeped up to run 60 metres unopposed for a fifth try.
Wigan did at least give their nearly 5,000 travelling fans something to cheer late on when Oliver Gildart crossed in the left corner after Williams had created space down that side, and then as the hooter sounded, Hardaker kicked through and collected himself to finish the game in front of the Warriors fans.
Three talking points
Kasiano: A big player for a big occasion
It was easily Kasiano’s best game in a Dragons jersey since arriving in Perpignan from NRL side Melbourne Storm earlier on in the season.
The Samoa international bullied Wigan’s pack. The Warriors struggled to deal with Kasiano’s big frame, with them bouncing off collisions. Kasiano proved to be a huge player on a huge stage for the Dragons. What are the Dragons feeding him as well? He’s an enormous human!
But Catalans were just too strong all over the park for Wigan. The likes of Remi Casty, Kenny Edwards, Mickael Simon and Sam Moa were on top of the Warriors for the entire game.
Nou Camp a great venue for RL
A lot of people were sceptical when the news was first announced that there would be a rugby league match at the Nou Camp, purely because of how big it is at a capacity of over 98,000.
And even though the stadium was less than a third full, the atmosphere was brilliant and the fact the ground is rounded suits rugby league supporters.
The fan zones outside of the Nou Camp were packed before the game, and no doubt plenty of Catalonian beers were downed by both sets of fans. It would be a shame if this was the last time a rugby league match was played at the Nou Camp because everyone had a great time and other fans would love it, too.
Super League attendance record broken
The Nou Camp clash set a new attendance record for a regular game inside the Super League season. There were 31,555 people inside the iconic home of FC Barcelona on Saturday.
The previous record was 25,004, which was set by Wigan-St Helens at the DW Stadium in a traditional Good Friday fixture back in 2005.
Some people bring up the argument of “What do Catalans bring to Super League?” and their questions have well and truly been answered. An expansion club has smashed the Super League attendance record for a regular season match.
Line-ups and ratings
Catalans: Gigot (8), Yaha (7), Mead (8), Wiliame (8), Tierney (7), Langi (7), Bird (6), Bousquet (7), McIlorum (8), Moa (7), Edwards (7), Whitley (7), Casty (7). Subs: Garcia (7), Simon (6), Baitieri (6), Kasiano (9).
Tries: McIlorum, Mead 2, Langi, Kasiano. Goals: Gigot 6. Drop Goals: Gigot.
Wigan: Hardaker (7), Marshall (6), Sarginson (7), Gildart (6), Burgess (5), Williams (7), Leuluai (6), Flower (6), Powell (6), Navarrete (6), Isa (6), Greenwood (6), Clubb (5). Subs: O’Loughlin (4), Tautai (6), Bullock (6), Hankinson (5).
Tries: Marshall, Gildart, Hardaker. Goals: Hardaker 2.
Wow, what an experience it was to be at the Nou Camp for this massive event. I honestly cannot say a bad word about this experience.
Catalans and rugby league needs to return to Barcelona in the near future to capitalise on the 15,000+ new spectators in the Catalonia capital. They were served an entertaining game, with their side coming out on top.
Are taking individual or double-header games to big cities the way to go for Super League instead of Magic Weekend? The argument is certainly there to be had.
As for the performances on the field, Catalans were impressive and their big bodies won them the game. As for Wigan, they were poor with the ball in hand. Maybe the occasion got to them?