Rugbu League

Maloney kicks Catalans to league title

Catalans Dragons half-back James Maloney (right) will retire from the sport at the end of the 2021 season
St Helens (18) 30
Tries: Mata’utia 2, Makinson, Coote, Knowles Goals: Coote 5
Catalans Dragons (6) 31
Tries: Tomkins, Bousquet, Whare, Dudson, Kasiano Goals: Maloney 5 Drop-goal: Maloney

Catalans Dragons pulled off one of the most stunning comebacks in sporting history as they came from 30-12 down with four minutes left to beat St Helens at St James’ Park.

James Maloney’s golden-point drop-goal ties up a first Super League Leaders’ Shield for the French side.

But he only got the chance after three quick-fire Catalans tries from Dean Whare, Gil Dudson and Sam Kasiano.

Lachlan Coote missed a drop for Saints before Maloney’s long-range winner.

With just two games left, Dragons’ 19th victory in 21 Super League games this season increases their win percentage from 90 to 90.48%, while Saints’ drops from 83.33 to 78.95.

But, even if Catalans lost their last two games, they would only drop to 82.60, while two Saints wins would only lift them to 80.95.

Sione Mata'utia scored two of St Helens' tries against Catalans Dragons at St James' Park
Sione Mata’utia scored two of St Helens’ tries against Catalans Dragons at St James’ Park

Catalans got off to a flyer in Newcastle when Sam Tomkins went over to open the scoring and was then illegally tackled high by Mark Percival, whose yellow card reduced Saints to 12 men.

But, despite still being a body down, Coote created the space for Tommy Makinson to score in the right corner on 14 minutes.

On 20 minutes, within four minutes of returning to the fray, Percival then set up Coote for a second try, this one being converted by the Australian full-back to put Saints 10-6 up.

Saints then strode clear just before the break when, in the space of three minutes, Mata’utia got over for his first try, Coote converted, Catalans had prop Sam Kasiano sin-binned and Coote added two more points when James Maloney was penalised for a shoulder charge.

Having gone in 18-6 up at the interval, a second try for Mata’utia and then a fifth Saints try from Morgan Knowles, either side of a converted Julian Bousquet try, stretched the reigning Super League champions three converted scores clear at 30-12.

But Catalans had a sting in the tail, triggered by Whare in the 75th minute.

Dudson then got on the end of a nice to move to add another with a minute and a half left.

Kasiano then completed the comeback as he held a high bomb to crash over the line, allowing Maloney to take the game to extra time with the third of his three successful late conversions.

Even then the drama was only just beginning.

Samisoni Langi was stretchered off after a challenge by Agnatius Pa’asi which left him being taken to hospital and Saints’ Tongan forward in the sin-bin.

It was Saints full-back Coote who had first chance to win it but he missed, and, in the final minutes of golden-point extra time, Maloney’s low 40m effort crept over to clinch a historic victory.

St Helens and Catalans Dragons are the first two sides to ever go to golden point at Magic Weekend
St Helens and Catalans Dragons are the first two sides to ever go to golden point at Magic Weekend

Encore une fois – Dracs secure silverware again

Catalans Dragons have secured their second piece of silverware since joining Super League in 2006.

It is also their second in four seasons following the appointment of Steve McNamara as Dragons boss in 2017.

He led them to their first trophy when they shocked St Helens in the semis before going on to beat Warrington 20-14 at Wembley in the 2018 Challenge Cup final – 11 years on from losing to Saints in their first-ever final in 2007.

Now, with their clutch of ex-Wigan players, star full-back Sam Tomkins, winger Tom Davies and forwards Gil Dudson, Michael McIlorum and Joel Tomkins, they have a chance to win a first Grand Final.

Having now beaten Saints twice in three attempts this season, and with Tomkins currently top of the Man of Steel ratings, this season still has much to offer for them.

Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara:

“It was a very dramatic finish. It’s outstanding for our club. Winning League Leaders is a by-product and everything else that goes with that.

“The golden point and the way we nearly blew it, they nearly blew it and we managed to get it with an amazing drop goal.

“But, in the cold light of day,it wasn’t good enough for us to be able to perform like that for those 80 minutes.

“Samisoni Langi is not great at all. We’re a bit concerned. He’s gone to hospital now, we’re obviously due to fly back so we’ve got some logistical problems, but we’ll make sure he’s got the best care and attention that he can and hopefully it won’t be too serious.”

St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf:

“My first thoughts are we’re very disappointed. We lost that game. That wasn’t taken from us. We’ve only got ourselves to blame.

“It’s really disappointing. For somewhere between 60 and 70 minutes we’d played as well as we have and we really had the game well in control.

“Unfortunately we dropped our intensity, we stopped playing and when you do that and you leave it to chance you can get your pants pulled down.”

St Helens: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Welsby, Dodd; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Bentley, Knowles.

Interchanges: Amor, Pa’asi, Batchelor, Wingfield.

Sin-bin: Percival (6), Langi (GP+5).

Catalans Dragons: S Tomkins; Davies, Whare, Langi, Yaha; Maloney, Drinkwater; Bousquet, McIlorum, Dezaria, Whitley, McMeeken, Goudemand.

Interchanges: Mourgue, Dudson, J Tomkins, Kasiano.

Sin-bin: Kasiano (37).

Referee: Liam Moore (RFL).

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