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Sam Burgess era starts with a loss as Warrington Wolves fall to 12-men Catalans Dragons

Warrington Wolves boss Sam Burgess Challenge Cup

The Sam Burgess era at Warrington Wolves began today with a loss as Wolves travelled to France to play Catalans Dragons and fell short against Steve McNamara’s side.

Catalans made the Grand Final in 2023 but with the loss of stars such as Mitchell Pearce and Sam Tomkins to retirement, and Tyrone May and Adam Keighran to Super League rivals Hull KR and Wigan Warriors, there had been questions over how Steve McNamara’s side would fair.

The same was true of Warrington but not surrounding their squad, instead surrounding how rookie head coach Sam Burgess would fare.

Whilst some questions were answered in today’s game it will certainly be an interesting season following both sides with play-offs the ambition for both.

The first major call of the Sam Burgess era saw him hand a Super League debut to 17-year-old Arron Lindop with the young centre taking a role on the wing.

Captain Stefan Ratchford had recovered enough from his calf issue to make the 21-man squad but he wasn’t named in the matchday squad, Toby King and Connor Wrench starting in the centres.

Last season’s star signing Paul Vaughan started from the bench with NRL recruits Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Zane Musgrove both starting ahead of him in the pack,

As for Catalans,  they named six debutants with Jordan Abdull, Theo Fages, Jayden Nikorima, Tariq Sims, Chris Satae and Bayley Sironen all featuring.

Abdull partnered Fages in the halves with Arthur Mourgue anchoring a backline featuring last season’s Man of Steel nominee Tom Johnstone.

Warrington Wolves fail to capitalise on man advantage

Micky McIlorum was sent off for Catalans Dragons with the first tackle of the second-half against Warrington Wolves.

Micky McIlorum was sent off for Catalans Dragons with the first tackle of the second-half against Warrington Wolves. – Picture by Olly Hassell/SWpix.com – Copyright: x xSWpix.comxt/axPhotographyxHubxLtdxOllyxHassell/SWpix.comx SWP-2309-0019

Warrington fended off early pressure in the cauldron that is the Stade Gilbert Brutus and they perhaps got lucky when Theor Fages kick bounced off the post and into the hands of Danny Walker, as opposed to a home player.

That first 15 minutes of resilience paid off though when young Arron Lindop scored on debut diving over in the corner to put the Wire up 4-0 after 20 minutes.

Catalans got back into the game just before halftime though when a Jordan Abdull kick caused confusion between Matt Dufty and Arron Lindop. Tom Johnstone took advantage and his pop pass met Abdull who had followed his kick and ran in to score.

Arthur Mourgue knocked over the conversion to send the home side in 6-4 up after 40 minutes.

The second forty began with controversy though as Micky McIlorum was sent off for shoulder contact with the head on the first carry of the second-half.

Catalans were next to score though through the boot of Arthur Mourgue with the home side taking the points available to them.

Warrington tried to make their man advantage work and it almost paid off immediately through Arron Lindop but a brilliant covering tackle by Jordan Abdull saw the teenager in touch just before he scored.

Abdull then took to attacking and helped set up Mourgue who ran a fine line to score and extend the Dragons’ lead to 10 as they went 14-4 up.

Catalans were able to see the game out to get their 2024 season off to a winning start and whilst there were positives for Warrington Wolves, Sam Burgess will be disappointed at their ill-discipline and inability to punish the Dragons.

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