Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara made a myriad of changes to the side which lost to Castleford by golden point last week. Saints were without Konrad Hurrell as they also made changes while looking to draw further clear at the top of the table.
The sun was ´cracking the flags´ as last season´s Grand Finalists took to the field with the home side having their work cut out to try and half a seven-game winning run for the Saints, having only won one in the last three themselves.
Saints won both previous meetings between the two sides in 2022 and were favourites to take the two points again tonight in the south of France.
It was all too easy for Saints when they opened their account on four minutes, Sione Mata´utia in space to take a jack Welsby pass and drop over the line for a four-pointer. Tommy Makinson couldn´t add the extras from close to the touchline, drifting his kick across the posts.
A delightful interplay between Makinson and Jonny Lomax saw the winger take the return ball and canter twenty metres to dive over in the corner. Makinson pushed his conversion across the face of the goal, Saints 8-0 ahead.
An awful high tackle from Dylan Napa on Ben Davies on twenty-three saw the Dragons prop forward yellow carded, the Dragons down to twelve for ten minutes.
After absorbing intense Saints pressure, it was the Dragons who scored next on thirty-on when Fouad Yaha passed back a Josh Drinkwater kick to the corner into the hands of Mathieu Laguerre who managed to get the ball on the ground before being pushed into touch by Lomax. Sam Tomkins made an awful attempt at the conversion, the ball missing the posts by a country mile.
The Dragons were level with ninety seconds to the interval when Yaha broke downfield before chipping the ball towards the posts, the chasing Saints defenders missing the ball and Drinkwater collecting to score. This time Tomkins kicked the goal and the Dragons took a 10-8 lead into the interval after looking down and out early on in the game.
Saints were back in front three minutes after the restart when Davies took a looping pass from Welsby to coast down the wing and score in the corner. Ben Davies attempted the conversion but had the same result as Makinson´s earlier efforts.
Great hands from the Dragons saw them snatch the lead back on fifty-two, Samisoni Langi taking the final pass from Drinkwater to run the last ten metres and stretch for the line. Tomkins was on target this time for 16-12.
On sixty-one the Dragons extended their lead with another magical try, this one created through a deft inside pass from Mitchell Pearce to Dean Whare to stoop over the line. Tomkins missed the conversion, the Dragons eight points ahead.
A one-on-one Welsby ball steal on sixty-four saw the Saints half-back reverse out of the tackle and run thirty metres unopposed to score. Davies added the conversion, the margin back to two points with fifteen minutes left on the clock.
Six minutes from time Regan Grace dived acrobatically for the corner but the referee sent the decision to the video referee ruled that the ball hadn´t been grounded in play thanks to a great Artur Romano tackle. A try saving, and game winning, tackle.
Another fantastic game between two of the best sides in the competition with the Dragons taking the spoils and the points and sending the Saints back home on the plane with plenty to think about as they looked over their shoulder at the French side now in second spot. It would have been easy for the Dragons to fold early on, but they are made of sterner stuff and deserved the win for their grit and determination. Who´d bet against these two meeting again at Old Trafford in October.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins (2G), Taha, Langi (T), Whare (T), Laguerre (T), Drinkwater (T), Pearce, Dudson, McIlorum, Napa (SB on 22), Whitley, Jullien, Goudemand. Subs: Da Costa, Seguir, Romano, Kasiano.
Saints: Bennison, Makinson (T), Davies (T, G), Mata´utia (T), Grace, Welsby (T), Lomax, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Sironen, Batchelor, Knowles. Subs: Lussick, Paasi, Wingfield, Bell.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-8, (SB), 4-8, 8-8, 10-8 : HT : 10-12, 14-12, 16-12, 20-12, 20-16, 20-18 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Saints – Square - Catalans – Saints – Catalans.
Referee: James Child.