St Helens prove too good for Catalans Dragons
Full-back Lachlan Coote’s personal haul of 18 points helped Super League champions St Helens bring the Catalans Dragons’ club record 12-match winning run to an abrupt halt.
The eagerly-awaited clash of the top two teams proved to be an anti-climax as Saints punished their severely under-strength visitors 34-12 to avenge their 20-16 defeat in Perpignan in May.
It was only the second defeat of the season for Steve McNamara’s team but they stay top of the table on win percentage.
They were without eight regulars through injury, including England full-back Sam Tomkins and Australian scrum-half Josh Drinkwater, who missed their second games of the season with knee and shoulder issues respectively.
The upshot was that McNamara included no fewer than 11 home-grown players in his 17-man squad, including two debutants in teenage scrum-half Cesar Rouge and second rower Corentin Le Cam, who at 6ft 8in is the tallest player in Super League.
Saints were close to full strength, one exception being prop Matty Lees, who was given the honour of parading the Challenge Cup around the ground before kick-off in their first home game since Wembley.
They looked set to celebrate in style after racing into an 18-0 lead after 16 minutes but the young Catalans side battled bravely against the odds to keep the scoreline in check.
The Frenchmen knew they were in for a tough afternoon in the pouring rain when full-back Arthur Mourge knocked on with his first touch and vastly-experienced stand-off James Maloney failed to find touch with a penalty.
Saints needed no second invitation to attack the Dragons line and stand-off Jonny Lomax found an unmarked Tommy Makinson with a lofted pass for the England winger to open the scoring after three minutes.
Five minutes later scrum-half Lewis Dodd hacked a loose ball ahead to touch down and, as the Catalans struggled to work their way out of their own half, left winger Regan Grace proved too slippery as he forced his way over for Saints’ third try.
The Catalans hit back on 23 minutes when centre Mathieu Laguerre took Rouge’s pass to go through a gap in the home defence for his fourth try in just five appearances and Maloney added the goal.
The visitors were temporarily reduced to 12 men five minutes before the break when substitute Joe Chan was sin-binned for an off-the-ball tackle on Sione Mata’utia and Coote kicked the resultant penalty to stretch his side’s lead to 20-6.
The champions looked set to run away with it when second rower Joe Batchelor was the first to reach Lomax’s grubber kick to the line to score their fourth try early in the second half but they encountered plenty of French resistance.
They also had Mata’utia sin-binned on 53 minutes for a late tackle on Benjamin Jullien and the Catalans took advantage to score their second try through forward Mickael Goudemand.
Saints’ aggressive defence ensured there would be no more leaks and they added a fifth try through Coote, who took advantage of an offload from the tackle by Dodd to touch down before kicking his seventh goal from seven attempts to wrap up the scoring.