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Round 1: Catalans take Wigan in thriller
Just like Paris before them, Catalan Dragons made a fairytale start to life in Super League with a pulsating victory by 38-30.
The Perpignan club scored the 12th try of an epic duel in the last minute at Stade Aime Giral to grab a sensational win over Wigan and send a bumper crowd wild with delight.
The lead changed hands six times in a memorable match but the Dragons finished the stronger side to famously claim the spoils and left the field to a standing ovation.
Dragons must now build on their stunning opening triumph if they are to succeed where Paris failed and, on this evidence, the signs are looking promising.
Inspired by brilliant New Zealand Test scrum-half Stacey Jones, one of five overseas players making their debuts for the Frenchmen, the Dragons three times came from behind to stun their illustrious visitors.
The shocks began as early as the second minute when the visitors, with five debutants of their own, conceded the first try but they fought back to lead 22-16 at half-time.
Wigan, in fact, made the worst possible start when new captain Sean O?Loughlin was pulled up for a forward pass straight from the kick-off and the French side scored from the resulting scrum.
Jones combined with former Castleford stand-off Sean Rudder to work the ball out wide and winger Mark Hughes rounded Mark Calderwood to squeeze over at the corner.
There was also some fine finishing from Wigan five minutes later when winger Brett Dallas reached for the line after his centre, David Vaealiki, had juggled with Mick Higham?s long pass.
Danny Tickle, like Laurent Frayssinous before him, hit the woodwork with the conversion attempt but the Warriors went in front five minutes later when teenage full-back Chris Ashton broke through the middle to send prop Iafeta Palea?aesina galloping 30 metres for a debut try.
Tickle?s successful conversion made it 10-4 but the Dragons were level on 15 minutes when full-back Frayssinous touched down Jones? grubber kick on the last tackle and also added the goal.
As the game swung from end to end Catalans prop Chris Beattie and Vaealiki both had tries disallowed before the home side, urged on by a vociferous crowd, regained the lead on 30 minutes.
Explosive second rower Jamal Fakir bumped off an attempted tackle by Pat Richards and Palea?aesina to crash over the line but quickly turned from hero to villain by being sin-binned.
The France international was placed on report by Ashley Klein for a high tackle on Wigan substitute Wayne Godwin but clearly did not heed the warning and was shown the yellow card after repeating the foul on the same unfortunate opponent moments later.
And Wigan took full advantage of the extra man, with lively scrum-half Dennis Moran jinking his way over for a try in stoppage time, and Tickle kicked his third goal.
But the Catalans look to be made of stern stuff and, with Fakir back in action, they struck with two tries early in the second half to edge back in front.
Substitute winger Renaud Guige had a score disallowed for a double movement but he made amends after 46 minutes by finishing some splendid handling by half-backs Jones and Rudder.
And six minutes later, the crowd was on its feet once more when centre John Wilson got a wonder pass out of the tackle for right winger Justin Murphy to cross at the corner.
Frayssinous planted the touchline conversion between the posts to make it 26-22 and that?s the way it stayed until the 70th minute.
Higham was held up over the line and O?Loughlin had the misfortune to lose the ball in the act of scoring but the skipper?s blushes looked to have been spared by Pat Richards, who handed off the challenge of Guige to race over for what they thought was the winning try.
A penalty from Tickle, his fifth goal from six attempts, made it 30-26 but back the French came again in a heart-stopping finish.
Loose forward Ian Hindmarsh, brother of Australian Test star Nathan, cut through for his side?s sixth try five minutes from the end and hooker Julien Rinaldi squeezed over in the last minute to make sure.
Catalans Dragons (16) 38.
Tries: Hughes, Frayssinous, Fakir, Guigue, Murphy 2, Hindmarsh. Goals: Frayssinous 5.
Wigan (22) 30.
Tries: Dallas, Paleaaesina, Moran, Seu Seu, Richards. Goals: Tickle 5.
Catalans Dragons: Frayssinous, Murphy, Sadaoui, Wilson, Hughes, Rudder, Jones, Beattie, Rinaldi, Fellous, Guisset, Fakir, Hindmarsh.
Replacements: Jampy, Mounis, Guigue, Chan.
Wigan: Ashton, Calderwood, Richards, Vaealiki, Dallas, Orr, Moran, Logan, Higham, Paleaaesina, Hansen, Tickle, O?Loughlin.
Replacements: Brown, Godwin, Seu Seu, Tomkins.
Referee: A Klein (London)