Zeb Taia scored a crucial try four minutes from time as Catalans Dragons clinched a dramatic 33-26 victory against St Helens on Saturday.
Winger Adam Swift posted four tries for the visitors but finished on the losing team again, having been part of the side beaten 42-0 in Perpignan last season.
The Saints were keen to avenge that defeat and maintain their charge to defend the Super League title.
Keiron Cunningham’s side opened the scoring in the fourth minute, Swift touching down after an error by Morgan Escare had gifted St Helens possession close to the Catalans’ line. The conversion attempt was missed from close to the touchline.
Catalans came back into the game on the quarter-hour, Todd Carney and Scott Dureau combining to send in Benjamin Garcia down the right-hand side. Dureau added the conversion to give the hosts the lead.
The Dragons extended their advantage four minutes later,Taia charging over the line from close range down the right. Dureau again converted to take the score to 12-4.
On 26 minutes, Swift scored Saints’ second try. Travis Burns evaded two Catalans defenders before sending the ball out to the left, where Jordan Turner just managed to off-load before being tackled. He sent in Swift, who pushed away Escare’s attempted tackle on his way to scoring, but again the conversion was missed and the score remained 12-8.
St Helens talisman James Roby forced a goal-line drop-out from a neat kick on the half-hour mark. From that field position, the visitors again sent the ball out to the left, and Turner again found Swift on the left. The home players stopped and allowed Swift to run around under the posts, making Luke Walsh’s conversion a simple one to give Saints a two-point lead.
Cunningham’s men were red hot and Catalans were losing their discipline. Shannon McDonnell scored under the posts five minutes before the break following neat interplay from Roby, Walsh and Burns. Walsh added the conversion to stretch Saints’ lead to 20-12.
Catalans got back within touching distance before the break, though. Dureau broke clear before handing the ball on to Elliott Whitehead, and his wide pass saw Garcia score his second of the afternoon. Dureau again added the conversion.
The second half saw both sides threaten to score but lose possession at key moments. Dureau’s 40-metre penalty attempt drifted just wide but crucially went dead so gave possession back to the Catalans.
From that field position Carney and Dureau combined to send Escare clear and the French full-back raced around Saints counterpart McDonnell and ran under the posts to give the Catalans the lead again. Dureau added the simple conversion to give the hosts a four-point cushion.
Six minutes later Dureau added a penalty to increase the Catalans’ lead to six points and that was required as Swift scored his fourth try nine minutes from time after good supporting work by Josh Jones down the left. Walsh levelled the scores at 26-26.
With time running out and both sides looking for a drop-goal, Taia took a short ball and bounced away from the St Helens defence 40 metres from the line. Space suddenly opened up for the Cook Islands captain and he raced over to score a spectacular match-winning try under the posts. Dureau added the simple conversion.
And Dureau added a drop goal with the final kick of the game to put the gloss to a spectacular win for the Dragons.