Jodie Broughton grabbed four tries as Catalans Dragons provided further evidence of their genuine Grand Final potential with an impressive 30-12 win over St Helens at Langtree Park.
A sixth consecutive win - a fifth in a row away from home - enabled the French side to draw level at the top of Super League with pacesetters Warrington.
Saints were fresh from a notable win at Warrington but they were no match for the Dragons, whose awesome pack created a superb platform for the returning stand-off Todd Carney to pull the strings, with former Huddersfield winger Broughton providing most of the finishing to take his tally of tries to 11 in just nine games.
However, just as pleasing for coach Laurent Frayssinous, who gave a debut to 18-year-old Alrix Da Costa in the absence of experienced hookers Paul Aiton and Eloi Pelissier, will be his side’s new-found resolve in defence.
It took Broughton just seven minutes to make his mark, taking Carney’s pass and wrong-footing his young opponent Jake Spedding to force his way over for his first try.
Some slick handling got him over unopposed for his second six minutes later and Pat Richards’ goal made it 10-0.
A break from ever-dangerous full-back Shannon McDonnell help relieve the pressure for St Helens and they went on to lay siege to the visitors’ try line.
The Dragons proved resolute and had gone over two hours without conceding a try when they were unpicked by a Frenchman, Saints half-back Theo Fages finishing off a superb flowing move to open his side’s account on 26 minutes.
The Catalans hit back when Broughton collected another accurate Carney pass to complete his hat-trick but their lead was cut to just two points when St Helens scrum-half Luke Walsh gathered his own neat chip over the visitors’ defence to touch down and also kicked his second conversion.
That try followed a barnstorming run from prop Alex Walmsley and Saints never looked as threatening when he was off the field.
Similarly, the Dragons were never quite as effective when heavyweight forward Dave Taylor was out of the action and his return early in the second half helped spark them back into life.
A clean break by second rower Glenn Stewart created a try for scrum-half Richie Myler and two minutes later Shane Horo released Richards, who raced down the wing for the visitors’ fourth try.
Trailing 24-12, Saints launched a furious counter-attack, aided by a string of penalties conceded by the French side, but still struggled to unlock their opponents’ aggressive defence.
When Fages managed to reach the line, after splendid work from skipper Jon Wilkin, he lost the ball in Stewart’s tackle and with it went Saints’ last chance of getting anything out of the game.
Broughton made sure of the points when he gathered centre Krisnan Inu’s pass to cross for his fourth try on 63 minutes and, although Richards was off target for the fourth time, he wrapped up the scoring with a penalty.