In the midst of the build up to last night’s Super League Grand Final and the stories about Wigan’s departing quartet, the fact that Romain Navarette and Morgan Escare were set to make history wasn’t mentioned.
By starting the Old Trafford showpiece, 24-year-old Navarrete became the first Frenchman to appear in the Grand Final and he was shortly joined by full-back Escare after his introduction from the interchange bench. Navarrete was an imposing influence as ever and it marked something of a turnaround for the Limoux, Hemel Stags and Catalans forward. His first competitive this season came at the start of the season while with Swinton. That match resulted in a defeat for the Lions at the hands of Toronto but he ended the campaign lifting the trophy alongside fellow countryman Escare who, after coming off the bench, was as dynamic and energetic as ever.
It was perhaps appropriate that, after a season where Catalans surprised the rugby league world by lifting the Challenge Cup, there was a positive story for French rugby league in the final domestic match of the season. Furthermore, it comes days after the Man of Steel voting revealed that many French players – predominantly the Catalans squad – voted in very peculiar fashion and, as such, outraged some in the rugby league community while confusing others.
Meanwhile, almost immediately after the half-time hooter sounded there seemed to be a skirmish in the mouth of the tunnel. Navarrete has since confirmed that Warrington centre Bryson Goodwin pushed Escare and that he waded in in order to protect his teammate. “Goodwin pushed Morgan and he’s my mate, so I went to help him,” said Navarrete and an RFL spokesman said the incident would be included in the match commissioner’s report and studied by officials on Monday.
In the build up to the final, Wigan confirmed that they would deal with Zak Hardaker’s latest indiscretion after the event and, with many calling for him to be sacked by the club, Escare will certainly be keen to have the opportunity to stake his claim for the Warriors’ first choice full back position.