Dragons roar back in thriller
St Helens 32 Catalan Dragons 34
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Saturday 25 February 2012
In the most heart-stopping climax to a game since St Helens' own "Wide to West" commentary classic, the Catalans Dragons came back from the dead to seize an improbable victory and go top of Super League.
Trailing 26-8 early in the second half, the French side staged a stirring fightback, but were still four points behind when the final hooter sounded.
Somehow they kept the ball alive through a dizzying succession of hands for Vincent Duport to touch down for his second try and leave Scott Dureau with a touchline kick that he slotted home almost casually.
The Dragons' coach, Trent Robinson, admitted his side had been below their best for the early part of the game. "But we can do things others can't do," he said. A shattered Royce Simmons, his Saints counterpart, complained of refereeing decisions in the second half. "But we weren't very good ourselves and we let in some very soft tries. They're a very good side. I was never comfortable and I always thought they were capable of coming back."
Saints took an early lead through Jamie Foster. After Remy Casty had brought the Catalans level by going straight through Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Jonny Lomax sent Anthony Laffranchi through with a lovely reverse pass to restore the home side's advantage.
When Gary Wheeler got on the end of a move involving James Roby and Lee Gaskell, it looked as though the Saints were on the point of taking control, although Dureau pegged back two points with a penalty before half-time.
The Dragons began the second half by conceding another penalty near their sticks. Saints moved the ball to the right, where Michael Shenton celebrated his return to fitness over the last two matches with a back-handed flick, brilliantly picked up by Tommy Makinson.
That was the Catalans' signal to get serious about catching up. Damien Blanch's try was set up by a pass out of the back of Steve Menzies' hand.
Almost immediately, Blanch bounced out of Foster's tackle to set up Duport, before Dureau's exchange of passes with Blanch made it three tries in eight minutes. Saints' lead was down to four points until Wheeler's second try, from a 40-yard interception. Leon Pryce put them straight under pressure again by putting Setaimata Sa through a gap with a piece of handling skill familiar to Saints' fans.
He had another chance to do the same thing, but this time his pass was knocked down to deny the script its punchline. It got an alternative one after the hooter.
St Helens: Wellens; Makinson, Shenton, Wheeler, Foster; Gaskell, Lomax; Laffranchi, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Puletua. Replacements: Hohaia, Flannery, Flanagan, Clough.
Catalan Dragons: Greenshields; Blanch, Millard, Dupport, Bosc; Pryce, Dureau; Casty, Henderson, Paea, Sa, Menzies, Baitieri. Replacements: Ferriol, Mounis, Raguin, Fakir.
Referee: J Child (Dewsbury)
*There was more late drama in last night's other match as hosts Salford fought back after trailing Hull by six points at the break to triumph 24-22.
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