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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Saints beat Catalans for three in a row

IDBS ART GALLERY

Kevin Naiqama brought the curtain down on his St Helens career with two tries
Catalans (4) 10
Tries: McMeeken Goals: Maloney 3
St Helens (6) 12
Tries: Naiqama 2 Goals: Coote 2

St Helens captured a third Super League Grand Final triumph in a row to shatter Catalans Dragons’ hopes in a tense and gripping showpiece at Old Trafford.

A hard-fought showing allowed Saints to claim an eighth final win in total, equalling Leeds Rhinos’ record.

Kevin Naiqama got the first try for St Helens but two penalties from James Maloney kept Catalans in touch at 6-4.

Mike McMeeken touched down for Catalans but centre Naiqama ended his Saints career on a high with the winning try.

Around 1,000 Catalans had travelled over from France to see their team in a maiden Grand Final, but they left heartbroken as St Helens’ big-game experience told in front of a largely red and white following.

The Rhinos are the only other side to win the domestic competition three times on the trot, in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Saints learn their lesson

Saints were pipped to the League Leaders’ Shield by Saturday’s opponents but collected the season’s big prize by just two points in a breathless encounter.

It was tough and brutal throughout, and fittingly centre Naiqama and full-back Lachlan Coote were the only points scorers, with both players appearing in their final game.

Naiqama is returning to Australia and his tries were superbly taken efforts – the first with a majestic step to burrow over, and the match-winning effort in the second half by collecting Jonny Lomax’s kick and sliding home.

That try came in front of the Catalans’ fans, who were left deflated having waved their yellow and red flags throughout the contest.

Coote, who is joining beaten semi-finalists Hull KR next season, added two crucial conversions, with the latter edging his side ahead.

Kristian Woolf’s men had 12 minutes to hold out and displayed their wealth of experience in their 13th Grand Final, seeing the game out without giving the Dragons a sniff.

They had learnt their lesson from last month, when they conceded three tries and a golden-point drop-goal in the final four minutes as they were beaten by the very same opposition.

Catalans fall agonisingly short

Perpignan-based Catalans joined Super League 15 years ago and were aiming to make history by becoming the first overseas team to lift the trophy and shift the power away from the M62 corridor.

Having won the Challenge Cup in 2018 and coming top at the end of the regular season, the Grand Final prize proved elusive in a cruel end to the season.

They battled hard in the arm-wrestle but found it difficult to make inroads into a resolute Saints backline, with McMeeken’s solitary try in the second half giving them a lead that was short-lived.

However, the course of the final could have taken a different path had referee Liam Moore taken action against Saints’ Sione Mata’utia in the third minute for an off-the-ball punch to the face of Maloney, but the incident went unpunished.

The result means the long wait for a new name on the trophy goes on, with St Helens, Leeds, Wigan and Bradford remaining as the only ones etched on the prize.

Catalans Dragon v St Helens
St Helens won the Grand Final for a record-equalling eighth time

‘These moments are going to stick with us’ – what they said

St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:

“I’m cool now, but I wasn’t for that last 10 minutes, it was a really tough last 10 minutes.

“The game was on the line, the guys have worked so hard to put themselves in that position. You’re just hoping that the blokes are good enough to hold on and of course they were.

“It was everything a Grand Final should be. They’re a great side they really challenged us and we knew they would.

“One thing about this group, when they’re asked to work hard for each other, that’s exactly what they do.”

St Helens captain James Roby told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:

“Fantastic. I’m so proud of everybody involved. To do it in front of the fans [after last year] was incredible.

“These moments are going to stick with us. Our fans were so good. We love them.

“I’m so lucky to be part of this organisation. Three in a row is so special.”

Catalans head coach Steve McNamara told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:

“I’m devastated. Everybody put so much effort in throughout the whole season. We just fell two points short.

“We just kept going, I thought we were going to get there – I really thought we were going to get there.

“This isn’t the finish. There’s more steps along the way.

“We’ve got a taste for it, we’ll try to be back here again.”

Catalans captain Ben Garcia told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:

“You always want to win a Grand Final. It’s frustrating but I’m really proud of the boys.

“The whole season we did so much work – I’m really proud.

“We’ve built something this year. With the travel, we could not imagine [getting here]. Every weekend we’d come to England, we hardly slept.

“We’ll come back.”

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