McManus: Catalan will be a tough nut to crack

Saints chairman Eamonn McManus
Saints chairman Eamonn McManus

Eamonn McManus believes Catalan Dragons will be no pushovers when the two sides meet for a place in the Grand Final.

Saints are just 80 minutes away from a 10th Grand Final appearance since the inception of the competition in 1998, but Saints chairman McManus is warning that the Dragons will be a tough nut to crack.

After watching the Dragons reach the last four with an 18-16 victory over the Huddersfield Giants at the John Smith’s Stadium on Friday night, McManus exercised his club’s right to select their next opponents and opted to bring the in-form French outfit to Langtree Park on Thursday.

The Saints’supremo said: “Catalan are a very strong side and have proved their credentials by beating both Leeds Rhinos and the Giants

en route to his stage of the competition.

“They are currently in a rich vein of form, powerful all over the field and we will need to produce a special performance to reach Old Trafford.”

McManus refused to accept they faced an easy choice despite their other potential opponents, Warrington Wolves, having an unblemished record at Langtree Park since it opened in 2012 and only a few weeks ago handed out a 39-12 thrashing to Saints.

He said: “We had a great deal to take into consideration, such as current form, league position, injuries and it was a difficult decision.

“It involved a great deal of thought and analysis.”

McManus also brought a light-hearted touch to the club call decision, which was screened live by Sky TV.

After being asked by commentator Eddie Hemmings to name his choice, he said: “After speaking to the coaching staff and senior players we have chosen Warrington (followed by a slight pause) to play Wigan.

“They enjoy each other’s company and we wouldn’t want to deny them that. We will play Catalan and I’m sure they will both be great semi finals.”

Saints, who last won the coveted trophy in 2006 when they defeated Hull FC 26-4 at Old Trafford, and the Dragons have already met twice in Super League action this season.

Nathan Brown’s side triumphed 40-22 at Langtree Park in March but in the return fixture in June produced arguably their most insipid display of the season and suffered an embarrassing 42-0 defeat.

The Dragons - the first team to reach the last four after finishing seventh in the table - will take confidence from that previous win and coach Laurent Frayssinious is not ruling out their first-ever Grand Final appearance.

He said: “We have been underdogs in both our play-off games and not expected to have progressed this far.

“St Helens are a good team with experienced players but the most important thing as far as we are concerned is to keep on winning.”

Tickets for the game are on sale from the ticket office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052, or by logging on to the club website.