Morgan Escare pressed his claims for a World Cup spot as Catalan Dragons condemned St Helens to a third defeat in four games. The French team, sporting shaven heads in support of a children’s cancer charity, were too good for their hosts as they rounded off a week’s camp with an impressive third away victory of the season.
The 22-year-old Escare, who got his chance when Brent Webb was ruled out for the season, scored his fourth try in just five Super League appearances and looked an accomplished full-back in attack and defence.
The Dragons were also indebted to experienced half-backs Thomas Bosc and Leon Pryce, who easily got the better of Lance Hohaia and Jon Wilkin, Saints’ sixth different half-back pairing of the season.
Coach Laurent Frayssinous sang the praises of Pryce, a former Saints favourite, afterwards. “Everybody knows what Leon can do,” Frayssinous said. “He provides the X-factor but what he has done for the club since Scott Dureau has been ill has been magnificent.”
Early Dragons’ pressure eventually paid off when Louis Anderson combined with Daryl Millard to get winger Frédéric Vaccari over at the corner after 26 minutes. Bosc, who had earlier missed with a penalty attempt, kicked the touchline conversion and the visitors strengthened their grip in the final 10 minutes of the first half. The promising Escare collecting winger Damien Blanch’s smart inside pass to cross the line.
Saints looked rejuvenated after coach Nathan Brown’s half-time talk and they pulled a try back within seven minutes of the start of the second half through Sia Soliola, Mark Percival adding the goal.
A 54th-minute penalty by scrum-half Bosc, awarded for offside, punctured Saints’ momentum. The Catalans were reduced to 12 men on 66 minutes when prop Michael Simon was sent to the sin-binned for preventing a quick play-the-ball then Saints substitute Alex Walmsley, gave his side brief hope when he crashed over for a try.
Percival’s second goal cut the gap to just four but Catalan hooker Ian Henderson made sure of the points, Bosc kicking his fifth goal.
St Helens: Makinson; Swift, Percival, Turner, Meli; Hohaia, Wilkin; Laffranchi, Howarth, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Jones, Wellens. Substitutes used Clough, Greenwood, Walmsley, Tilley.
Catalan Dragons: Escare; Blanch, Menzies, Millard, Vaccari; Pryce, Bosc; Casty, Henderson, Simon, Taia, Anderson, Baitieri. Substitutes used Mounis, Pelissier, Fakir, Paea.
Referee P Bentham (Warrington).