Catalans 20-18 St Helens: Dragons fight back to end Saints’ six-match winning run in thriller

Steve McNamara’s men overcame a disastrous start in which they conceded two tries in the first 14 minutes; the Dragons’ win came in the absence of inspirational skipper Benjamin Garcia, who missed his first match of the season after being taken ill overnight

Last Updated: 02/07/22 7:57pm

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Highlights of the match between the Catalans Dragons and St Helens in the Rugby Super League

Highlights of the match between the Catalans Dragons and St Helens in the Rugby Super League

Catalans Dragons twice came from behind to end Super League leaders St Helens’ six-match winning run with a gripping 20-18 victory in Perpignan.

Steve McNamara’s men overcame a disastrous start in which they conceded two tries in the first 14 minutes to secure their first win over the reigning champions at the third attempt since October’s crushing Grand Final defeat.

The Catalans’ victory, which enabled them to close to within four points of their opponents, came despite the absence of inspirational skipper Benjamin Garcia, who missed his first match of the season after being taken ill overnight.

Second rower Joe Chan was also absent through illness, joining injured England internationals Mike McMeeken and Tom Davies on the sidelines, while Saints were without in-form centre Konrad Hurrell due to illness.

The visitors had the backing of almost 1,000 fans at the Gilbert Brutus Stadium as they made an explosive start.

It looked so simple as they created an overlap for Sione Mata’utia, operating once more as a makeshift centre, to take Jack Welsby’s pass and score the opening try.

Josh Drinkwater celebrates with his Dragons team-mates after scoring a try

Josh Drinkwater celebrates with his Dragons team-mates after scoring a try

Winger Tom Makinson then produced a break out wide and took an inside pass from Jonny Lomax to claim his 149th Super League try, but he was unable to convert either try and Saints were forced into some desperate defence to keep their 8-0 lead intact.

The Dragons made it tougher for themselves when prop Dylan Napa, who was sent off on his Super League debut at St Helens in February, was sin-binned after 22 minutes for a high tackle on Ben Davies.

Saints almost made them pay when Davies chased James Roby’s grubber kick to the line but was unable to control the put-down and the home side struck back while down to 12 men.

A break from full-back Sam Tomkins got his side within sight of the Saints line and centre Mathieu Laguerre held off the last-ditch tackle from Lomax to touch down at the corner after his winger Fouad Yaha had collected Josh Drinkwater’s kick.

Matthieu Laguerre goes over for the Dragons in Perpignan

Matthieu Laguerre goes over for the Dragons in Perpignan

Tomkins’ conversion attempt went well wide but the Catalans drew level two minutes before the break when Yaha burst clear down the wing and kicked inside for Drinkwater to score their second try.

Tomkins’ successful goal made it 10-8 but the lead changed hands again three minutes into the second half when Davies, switched to the wing in place of an injured Makinson, accepted Welsby’s cut-out pass to touch down at the corner.

Davies was wide with the conversion attempt but Saints were back in front at 12-10 and he came to their rescue moments later with a trysaving tackle on Yaha.

There was no let-up in the intensity and Catalans regained the lead after 52 minutes when Drinkwater took a return pass from second rower Matt Whitley to race clear and put centre Samisoni Langi over for their third try, which Tomkins goaled.

That looked to have put the Dragons firmly in the driving seat as they led 20-12 but Welsby had other ideas as he stole the ball in a one-on-one tackle on prop Sam Kasiano and sprinted 40 metres for an opportunist try in the 64th minute.

Davies’ goal cut the gap to two points and Saints seemed set to go back in front when winger Regan Grace broke through the heart of the Catalans defence only to be denied by Mitchell Pearce’s desperate tackle.

Winger Arthur Romano also pulled off a tremendous challenge to deny Grace at the corner as the Perpignan outfit hung on for a remarkable victory.

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