A brave second-half fightback was not enough to earn Super League's standard-bearers in Wales a second victory of the season. Although their revival briefly hinted at another win after last week's at Bradford, Steve Bell's try in the 67th minute and Cyril Stacul's at the death won the game for the team from France.
The Dragons, just one place above their hosts at the foot of the table, suffered a pre-match blow when Casey McGuire aggravated a shoulder injury in the warm-up. They then went behind soon after the game started, failing to deal with Matty Smith's high kick, conceding a penalty at the ensuing scrum and allowing Josh Hannay in for a converted try.
The Crusaders, however, immediately allowed the Catalans to strike back when Thomas Bosc's restart found touch and Greg Bird got over for the try. The French then took firm control of the match with two quick tries midway through the half. Bosc's short pass to the long-striding Olivier Elima created the first and then Cyril Gossard got a pass out of a three-man tackle to set up Adam Mogg.
A potentially pivotal moment came and went when Jérôme Guisset lost the ball under no pressure with the line open and a try beckoning, and if the Crusaders could have punished that blunder the game could have taken on a different complexion. David Tangata-Toa, however, lost the ball when stretching for the line.
The game was becoming messy, but the Dragons showed their extra quality through Gossard's fine run just before half-time and Shane Perry's first try of the season from Bosc's pass.
The Crusaders started the second half with two quick penalties, to release Jason Chan on a try-scoring run. A long delay while Julien Touxagas was treated for a jarred back robbed the Dragons of what remained of their fluency and Darren Mapp's run put them on the back foot. Luke Dyer leapt to take Jace van Dijk's bomb and slip the ball for Jordan James to score.
The Crusaders could have been at least level when Mark Bryant almost managed to ground the ball, but that was their last chance. The Dragons chose to run from a penalty near the posts and Mogg's clever pass put Bell over in the corner. Stacul's effort, from an intercepted Damien Quinn pass, put a gloss on the scoreline. The Dragons are not the team they were last year, but they were still a little too good for the Crusaders.
Celtic Crusaders: Quinn; Dyer, Hannay, Dalle Cort, Blackwood; Smith, Van Dijk; O'Hara, Withers, Bryant, James, Beasley, Chan. Substitutes used: Budworth, Tangata-Toa, Flower, Mapp.
Catalans Dragons: Greenshields; Bell, Baile, Mogg, Stacul; Bird, Bosc; Carlaw, Bentley, Guisset, Elima, Gossard, Mounis. Substitutes used: Perry, Ferriol, Casty, Touxagas.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).