Sometimes sport has the ability to create moments that transcend the era we live in. Make no mistake, this was one of the greatest finals ever, and how the Catalan Dragons played their part in their first – but surely not the last – Old Trafford appearance.
But as the world of rugby watched whether the Dragons could create a real story and win the Super League title outside of England for the first time, we forgot the one thing that has stood the test of time. modern era: you will never, ever write off St Helens. Winning the title once is special. Twice is incredible. Three in a row? This is the stuff of legend.
It’s hard to underestimate the place of this St Helens side among the greatest in the rugby league. Forget the Super League and the summer era; Since the sport was founded in a Huddersfield hotel in 1895, only two teams – Wigan in the early 1990s and Leeds from 2007 to 2009 – had won the league title three years in a row before.
As James Roby lifted the Super League trophy for the third year in a row, he almost certainly ensured his club made history as one of the greatest of all time.
“This city has a team to be proud of,” said coach Kristian Woolf. “They continue to fight for each other and work for each other. I am confident in what we are going to do in the future as well.
How they were made to work for this, however. The teams have already bowed under pressure in their first grand final but there was little chance that would happen here with the Catalans.
With an engrossing game entering the final quarter, the Dragons had taken a four-point lead thanks to Mike McMeeken’s try and, having already withstood immense pressure, you started to wonder if the Catalans could make it. ‘impossible. But Kevin Naiqama’s second try, after giving the Saints the lead midway through the first half, was the deciding blow.
“We have no regrets,” Catalans coach Steve McNamara said. “But we will be back. It’s not the last step, it’s the next step. We have opened up a whole new market for French rugby union; the door is open now and we have to keep it open.
Their efforts were best highlighted by the fact that two of their players, Ben Garcia and Matt Whitley, both broke their hands but somehow ended the game.
Old Trafford was frantic going into the game and that atmosphere bubbled up in the game itself. There was a first moment of controversy when James Maloney was hit by a punch from Sione Mata’utia, although he went unpunished. “That kind of incident, they usually come back, stop the game and watch it,” McNamara said.
It was the defending champions who dominated the first quarter, although they fell behind when Maloney took a routine penalty kick in his last game as a professional. The Saints roared back, scoring the try their game deserved when Jonny Lomax’s pass allowed Naiqama to sneak in and land despite extreme pressure from three Catalan defenders.
Another penalty from Maloney reduced the lead to two at halftime, but when Tommy Makinson became the first player in Grand Final history to be sent to the trash, for a high tackle on Fouad Yaha, that tipped the scales in favor of the Catalans. to favor. Five minutes later, they took full advantage when Tom Davies pushed a kick back into McMeeken’s path. Maloney converted and the Dragons led 10-6.
Suddenly, the most extraordinary story of the rugby league seemed possible. The Catalans have changed the landscape of the Super League this year, highlighted by the fact that TV teams like Barcelona and Paris were present here. In the end, they failed to complete the job, but you think it won’t be their one and only Grand Final appearance.
Ultimately, the Saints made sure it was their night when Lomax broke through and Naiqama – who will pull out a three-time Grand Final winner – cut the angle and hit the ground for his second. Lachlan Coote converts and St Helens takes the lead.
There were late chances for the Catalans and another night, against another team, maybe they could have taken advantage of at least one. However, nothing replaces the experience and class this side of St Helens has.