Mick Potter's future looked marginally brighter than his present as the side he will coach next year beat the one now in his charge. Despite being well below their best for long periods, Saints' victory takes them above the Catalans and into second place in the Super League table.
"I've been in plenty of games that have been an advert for rugby league, but this wasn't one," said Saints' current coach, Daniel Anderson. "Catalans were terrible and we were poor."
For all that, Saints hardly gave their future coach a warm welcome to Knowsley Road, with a lively start that saw them take a third-minute lead through Sean Long's perfect kick for Chris Flannery to time his run and touch down. It was an ominous opening for a side who had conceded 50 points in each of their last three visits.
The Catalans seemed to settle into their defensive pattern but midway through the first half they were opened up again when Leon Pryce, on his knees, still managed to get his pass away to Keiron Cunningham. As usual, Cunningham went off soon after that and his replacement, James Roby, almost immediately set up a try for James Graham.
Potter's side, so flat in the first half, found their missing spark after his half-time team talk with Casey McGuire's weaving run and reverse pass to Adam Mogg creating their first points.
There was suddenly a new sense of belief about the Catalans, but they undermined their chances by conceding a series of penalties, culminating in the sin-binning of Clint Greenshields for stealing the ball. It still took something special to break down their revitalised defence and it came in the form of a lightning catch and pass from Matt Gidley to Ade Gardner. The same combination made absolutely sure of the two points nine minutes from time with Gidley's looping pass releasing his wing and confirming him as Super League's top try scorer.
Roby's pass to Pryce made Saints look more convincing than they had been, although Greenshields got a last-minute effort for the Catalans, too late to save their eight-match unbeaten run in Super League.
St Helens: Wellens; Gardner, Gidley, Talau, Meli; Pryce, Long; Cayless, Cunningham, Graham, Gilmour, Flannery, Wilkin. Substitutes used: Roby, Bennett, Hargreaves, Clough.
Catalans Dragons: Greenshields; Pelo, Wilson, Mogg, Khattabi; Bosc, McGuire; Ferriol, Gorrell, Chan, Raguin, Croker, Mounis. Substitutes used: Guisset, Carlaw, Fakir, Casty.
Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).Reuse content