Blanch treble fires Dragons
Catalan Dragons closed to a point of Warrington with a battling 34-10 Super League win over Wakefield Wildcats at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.
Damien Blanch (3), Steve Menzies (2) and Clint Greenshields scored the tries for the home side in the energy-sapping heat of Perpignan.
It enabled the Dragons to reclaim third place from St Helens and made sure they took full advantage of the defeats for leaders Wigan and the second-placed Wolves.
An early mistake from Richard Mathers was punished by Vincent Duport, who drew in the defence and sent Blanch racing down the line to touch down in the fourth minute.
Menzies' first try was a superb intercept on his own 10-metre line, the 38-year-old racing the remaining 90 metres to touch down unopposed.
A superb individual effort from Ali Lauitiiti followed at the other end - the New Zealander used his superb handling skills to dummy, then his strength to power over the line despite Scott Dureau's best efforts to halt him. Paul Sykes converted to narrow the gap to six points.
Dureau who laid Menzies' second try on a plate, his short ball to the former Australian second row allowing Menzies to go through a gap in the Wakefield defence to score. Dureau added his third conversion from as many attempts to give the hosts an 18-6 half-time lead.
From the restart, a high Dureau kick again caused havoc in the Wakefield defence and Peter Fox fumbled the ball twice under pressure before Greenshields put boot to ball for the Catalans and managed to win the race to touch the ball down under the posts to score and allow Dureau an easy conversion.
Wakefield responded with a try from second rower Kyle Trout, who managed to squeeze his way over. Sykes hit the post with a challenging attempt at a conversion.
With 15 minutes remaining, the hosts killed off Wakefield as Duport once again provided a superb offload to send in Blanch in the right corner.
Dureau nailed a touchline conversion to stretch the advantage to 30-10 and take the Dragons to the brink of victory.
With just six minutes left, a short goal-line drop out gifted the hosts field position and they made Wakefield pay as Ian Henderson and Greenshields combined to send Blanch in for his hat-trick try.
Dureau missed with the touchline effort but the win was secure at 34-10.