PICTURES EDDIE WHITHAM
WARRINGTON Wolves held on to beat Catalans Dragons 24-16 and keep alive their hopes of reaching the top eight.
It really was a must win game for Tony Smith’s men, which keeps them within three points of the top eight with four games left to play before the Super League split.
Former Wolves half-back Richie Myler threatened to pile more misery on the hosts with a brace of tries, and only a late score from Andre Savelio made the game safe.
Finishing outside the top eight would put the Wolves at risk of relegation, having to play with the top four Championship teams and three other existing Super League clubs over the final seven rounds.
Dubbed a four-pointer, with Catalans also in the bottom four at present, the game marked a return to Super League for ex-England coach Steve McNamara, recently appointed head coach of the Dragons having spent the last few years as an assistant in the NRL.
He would have been delighted with their start, the visitors getting on the board inside two minutes as quick hands by former Wigan centre Iain Thornley allowed Jodie Broughton to go over in the corner.
And while it was two Englishmen that put the French ahead, it would be Warrington’s own Frenchman that levelled the scores on seven minutes, Benjamin Julien taking a drop off ball to crash over for a try that was converted by Kurt Gidley to put the Wolves 6-4 to the good.
A scrappy opening quarter was played out until the second try, Kevin Penny out jumping Tony Gigot for Gidley’s high-kick, and Ryan Atkins taking advantage of an unsettled Catalans defence to go over from dummy half.
But it was all square at 10-10 on the half hour mark, Myler crossing for his first of the afternoon following Gigot’s break, converted by Luke Walsh.
The Wolves nudged ahead, somewhat crucially, on the stroke of half-time, Gidley converting a penalty after he had been obstructed taking a kick.
The next score was also pivotal. Gidley put over another penalty for 14-10 and then off the kick-off, Warrington broke through Daryl Clark and after he was tackled 20 metres out, Gidley kicked out wide for Atkins to score.
That made it a two score game, and Gidley’s penalty kicks proved a shrewd move.
It meant that even when Myler grubbered through and collected his own kick for a try on 71 minutes, that Warrington maintained a two point lead at 18-16 going in to the final few minutes.
It won’t have been a pleasant experience for the home faithful though they could finally relax with just a minute to go when Savelio crashed over under the posts.
Warrington: Will Dagger, Jack Johnson, Jack Hughes, Ryan Atkins, Kevin Penny, Declan Patton, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Brad Dwyer, Mike Cooper, Benjamin Julien, Joe Philbin, Joe Westerman. Subs: Daryl Clark, Ashton Sims, Andre Savelio, Sam Wilde.
Catalans: Tony Gigot, Jodie Broughton, Iain Thornley, Vincent Duport, Fouad Yaha, Luke Walsh, Richie Myler, Sam Moa, Paul Aiton, Remi Casty, Louis Anderson, Ben Garcia, Jason Baitieri. Subs: Thibaud Margalet, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Simon, Alrix Da Costa