Saints 30 Catalan 12

St Helens players celebrate after their team's victory during the First Utility Super League Play Off match at Langtree Park, St Helens
St Helens players celebrate after their team's victory during the First Utility Super League Play Off match at Langtree Park, St Helens

Saints ended Catalan Dragon’s fairytale play-off run in emphatic fashion to secure their 10th Grand Final appearance at Old Trafford on Saturday week.

Saints scored five tries to two, including one from Willie Manu on his final appearance at Langtree Park, to run out 30-12 winners in the first semi-final and put them in sight of a first title since 2006.

The Dragons performed wonderfully well to pull off surprise wins at Leeds and Huddersfield to reach the last four, but this was a game too far, although their battling spirit was amply illustrated by courageous full-back Morgan Escare, who scored the opening try and defied a painful hip injury to stay on the field for as long as his side were in contention.

The visitors were the best side throughout a scoreless opening quarter, courtesy of their dangerous offload game, and Saints were forced to scramble to halt the danger caused by early breaks from in-form winger Michael Oldfield and half-back Sam Williams.

It took an interception by winger Adam Swift to relieve the pressure and centre Mark Percival missed a chance to give St Helens the lead when he was wide with an early penalty kick at goal.

The Catalans duly took the lead on 21 minutes when impressive second rower Elliott Whitehead collected Williams’ high kick and offloaded superbly to Thomas Bosc, who produced another miraculous pass to get Escare over for his 29th try of the season, even if it looked distinctly forward.

Bosc’s goal made it 6-0 but Saints hit back to level within four minutes when loose forward Jordan Turner took on the Catalan line and forced his way through to touch down despite the efforts of three defenders.

Turner was also instrumental in his side’s next try, switching the point of attack to bring Paul Wellens into the line from full-back and Swift produced an outstanding finish at the corner, evading an ailing Escare on the way

Percival’s second conversion, this time from the touchline, gave his side a 12-6 interval lead and there was no way back for the Frenchmen when Manu finished off a break by winger Tom Makinson to score a third try.

Escare was eventually prized from the field 10 minutes into the second half, still clutching his right hip, with Daryl Millard switching to full-back in a losing cause.

Percival stretched his side’s lead with a 56th-minute penalty and prop Mose Masoe took advantage of a fast-tiring defence to barge his way over from 10 metres out.

Percival then brushed asdie the challenge of Millard to score his side’s fifth try before Catalan winger Michael Oldfield went over for a consolation try straight from a scrum on halfway, with Bosc kicking his second goal.