One of the more mouthwatering ties of the opening weekend saw Warrington Wolves travel to the south of France to take on the Catalans Dragons who were rocked during the week by a two year suspension handed to utility player Tony Gigot after he reportedly clashed with drug test official.
Wolves coach Tony Smith named new signings Mike Cooper and Andre Savelio in his starting line up and Dom Crosby was on the bench. Laurent Frayssinous also gave a handful of debuts with Greg Bird, Sam Moa, Mikael Simon, Luke Walsh and Brayden Wiliame all figuring in his seventeen.
It would be a big opening round test for both teams.
The sides were evenly matched over the opening ten minutes but after some good Catalans pressure it was the visitors who opened the scoring when Andre Savelio found space to go through a gap and score ten metres in from the right corner flag. Declan Patton kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
The Dragons got their opener on twenty four when Warrington's Rhys Evans fielded a high kick at the second attempt but then offloaded infield as he was pushed towards the touchline, only to see the ball go straight into the hands of Richie Myler who ran twenty unopposed metres to the line. Luke Walsh left the conversion attempt just the wrong side of the uprights.
As the half wore on it became a real arm wrestle punctuated by penalties from the whistle of Mr Child.
When Joe Westerman pushed illegally at the play the ball just a metre from his own line, Luke Walsh kicked a thirty-eighth minute penalty to level the scores at 6-6, the margin as the half time hooter sounded.
One minute into the second half and Tom Lineham was sin-binned for holding down after the Wolves had received a 'team warning' in the dying seconds of the first.
The twelve men withstood six minutes of Dragons pressure but when a crabbing run from Paul Ailton found Greg Bird on support, the hooker put the loose forward through a gap and over the whitewash. Walsh kicked the extras from under the sticks.
It was twenty more minutes before the next points. They cam through a Luke Walsh penalty which he kicked from thirty metres after Warrington had interfered at the play the ball, opening up a little daylight at 14-6.
Three minutes from time and an Ashton Sims tap on from a long ball found Reece Evans to dive over and ground in the corner. Patton kicked the conversion from the right touchline to put his side back within two points of the home side.
As the final hooter sounded Richie Myler put in a short ball to Brayden Wiliame for the Dragons full-back to force his way over the line. Walsh confidently added the conversion for a final score of 20-12.
This was a blood and thunder contest which left battered and bruised bodies across the field. There were plenty of mistakes from both sides and referee James Child must have been close to wearing out his whistle, but the Dragons just seemed to want it a little bit more, and had marginally better discipline.
Wiliame (T), Broughton, Inu, Duport, Yaha, Walsh (4G), Myler (T), Moa, Aiton, Casty, Garcia, Horo, Bird (T). Subs: Bosquet, Baitieri, Bosc, Simon.
Russell, Evans (T), King, Atkins, Lineham (SB), Patton (2G), Gidley, Cooper, Clark, Sims, Savelio (T), Hughes, Westerman. Subs: Dwyer, Crosby, Livett, Philbin.