Catalan Dragons grabbed their tenth victory of the season with a 42-34 win over Widnes but it was not to be the walk in the park many predicted.
Widnes were keen to make amends for their 76-6 hammering from Catalan back in March whilst the Dragons were looking to complete a double over the struggling Vikings.
Widnes welcomed back Patrick Ah Van and Anthony Mullally into the squad although Simon Finnigan was out after breaking his leg in a previous fixture. Dragons boss, Trent Robinson gave Mathias Pala his first appearance of the season from the substitute bench.
Catalan started the game amazingly and after just a minute and a half, had kicked a 40-20 in the form of Scott Dureau. From the scrum, the Dragons shipped the ball across to the right flank giving Clint Greenshields an early score. Scott Dureau hit the post from a touchline conversion attempt leaving the score at 0-4 with just two minutes gone.
Shortly after, veteran forward, Steve Menzies broke the line to set up Leon Pryce who managed to touch down near to the posts. Scott Dureau claimed his first conversion of the afternoon and gave the visitors and early 10-0 lead.
With the Vikings’ heads clearly dropping, Catalan continued to strike; minutes later Vincent Duport scored near to the touchline despite calls from the crowd that he had strayed into touch.
Widnes responded well and soon found their first points of the game after a Stefan Marsh try and Rhys Hanbury goal made the score 6-14. Their next try came in the form of Joe Mellor who like Marsh is a product of Wigan’s academy at the Vikings on loan. Rhys Hanbury hit his second conversion of the afternoon leaving the Vikings trailing narrowly at 12-14.
Damien Cardace thought he had increased Catalan’s lead but he was brought back by referee, Rob Hicks for a marginal forward pass.
Less than two minutes later, Catalan did manage to score; Louis Anderson broke through hopeless Widnes defending to score under the posts. Dureau gave the Dragons a 20-12 lead with a successful kick at goal.
Anderson almost doubled his tally five minutes later but spilled the ball in-goal allowing Widnes fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
Widnes also had a try disallowed for a forward pass; Patrick Ah Van thought he had decreased the deposit but the referee had other ideas.
On the last play of the half, the ball passed through several pairs of hands and the Dragons came close to scoring a try which could have effectively ended the game but instead, Rhys Hanbury pounced on a spilled ball and raced 80 meters up field to give Widnes hope at the break. Hanbury converted his own try meaning the visitors were only two behind at half time.
Just two minutes into the second stanza, Chris Dean gave Widnes the lead for the first time in the encounter. A missed conversion meant that although the Vikings were in front, they were only leading by two points.
Widnes thought they had found their feat until Jon Clarke was sin binned for an unnecessarily late tackle on Scott Dureau after an attacking kick. During his period of absence, Lloyd White and Joe Mellor were stretchered off and the Dragons scored two quick tries.
First however, Widnes thought they had scored despite only having twelve on the pitch; Patrick Ah Van was denied for the second time in the afternoon, this time for having a foot in touch before grounding the ball.
The first try in Clarke’s absence came in the form of Louis Anderson. A Scott Dureau conversion gave Catalan the lead at 22-26.
Catalan were given space to breathe after a Lopini Paea try and Scott Dureau conversion gave them a ten point lead at 22-32.
Widnes were keen to rectify their mistakes and a Widnes comeback was on the cards after substitute, Kurt Haggery burst the line to score. Rhys Hanbury restored the deposit to just four points with a successful goal.
With just thirteen minutes left to run, Catalans were awarded a penalty and despite calls from the touchline to take the two, the on-field players decided to attack. The decision backfired after a mistake just meters from the line but luckily for the Dragons, their mistake did not come back to bit them.
Patrick Ah Van recovered from his disallowed tries and tied the score at 32-32 with a blind-side try. Despite intense pressure, Rhys Hanbury gave the Vikings a two point lead with a successful conversion.
Catalans responded well and re-took the lead after a sweeping move to the right sent Thomas Bosc in by the corner flag. Scott Dureau was unable to convert four into six so the Dragons were left with only a two point winning margin.
Dureau was able to score the final try and goal of the game however and in doing so, sealed the game from a passionate Widnes side.
In next weekend’s Magic fixtures, Widnes face Warrington who are now placed second in the Super League standings after beating Wakefield earlier today. Catalan will aim to make amends from today’s poor performance against London on Saturday.
Widnes: Phelps, Flynn, Marsh, Dean, Ah Van, Mellor, Hanbury, Cross, Clarke, Pickersgill, Winterstein, Allen, Cahill
Replacements: White, Davies, Haggerty, Mullally
T: Marsh, Dean, Ah Van, Mellor, Hanbury, Haggerty
G: Hanbury 5
Sin Bin: Clarke (Late tackle)
Catalan: Greenshields, Bosc, Menzies, Duport, Cardace, Pryce, Dureau, Paea, Henderson, Casty, Raguin, Anderson, Baiteiri
Replacements: Simon, Fakir, Barthau, Pala
T: Greenshields, Bosc, Duport, Pryce, Dureau, Paea, Anderson 2
G: Dureau 5
Referee: Ben Thaler
RLFANS Man of the Match: Scott Dureau (Catalan)