With many tasty matches vying for the game of the Magic Weekend, you could be forgiven for anticipating some of the fixtures with more relish than the top of the table tussle between the Catalans Dragons and St Helens, but with the minor premiership still in the balance the second fixture of Saturday afternoon could go a long way to answering the big question.
Saints made just one change from the side that beat the Warrington Wolves last weekend with Kyle Amor coming onto the bench in place of Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook as the defending Super League champions looked to move within a whisker of the Dragons point percentage.
With both sides having won their last three outings, the bookies made Saints the slight favourites for the win and to stop the Dragons from clinching the League Leaders Trophy for the first time in their history in what could well be a Grand Final dress rehearsal.
It was a magical start for the Dragons with Sam Tomkins tiptoeing his way through the Saints defence to score from fifteen metres with just three minutes on the clock. James Maloney added the simple conversion to silence the large contingent of Saints fans in the stadium.
A high tackle on Sam Tomkins by Mark Percival saw the first sin-binning of the game with the Saints centre receiving a yellow card, and taking a ten minute rest.
On twelve minutes the Saints struck back when a flying Tommy Makinson grounded one-handed in the corner down the right-hand side of the field by the usually reliable Lachlan Coote was unable to add the conversion from wide.
Seven minutes later the Red Vee were in front with Mark Percival the supplier of a delightful inside pass to Coote to hit a big gap and go over unopposed. Coote added the conversion as the Saints fans regained their voices.
After a period of sustained Dragons pressure Saints worked the ball downfield and on thirty-five Sione Mata’utia took a Jack Welsby pass and stepped off both feet and through a high tackle to get the ball on the ground. Coote added the conversion for a 16-6 lead, the Saints taking their chances where the Dragons couldn’t.
It went from bad to worse for the Dragons on thirty-seven when Sam Kasiano was sin-binned for contact with the head on James Bentley. Within a minute a Maloney shoulder charge conceded a penalty under the Dragons sticks and Coote made no mistake in kicking the goal for a half time lead of 18-6.
Mata’utia picked up his second of the game after a disjointed start to the second half taking a short ball and turning the Dragons defence inside out with a ten-metre run to the line. Coote added the conversion for 24-6, Saints pulling away towards victory.
Makinson had a try ruled out of fifty-five for a double-movement and within a minute a barnstorming Jullien Bousquet brushed aside the Saints defence to stretch and score under the crossbar. Maloney added the goal to edge the Dragons back into the game, but it was still almost a lost cause.
Morgan Knowles somehow managed to wriggle out from under five tacklers to get the ball on the ground under the cross bar as the Dragons players were left scratching their heads. Coote added the conversion to seal the win as Saints hit thirty points with ten minutes remaining.
Sam Tomkins was held up over the line on seventy-two, and a minute later Dean Whare lost the ball within a metre of the line, it appeared that it just wasn’t the Frenchman’s afternoon, but miracles can, and do, happen.
The Dragons finally got their third try of the game when Whare went through a gap to score down the left hand side and when Maloney added the touchline conversion the margin was down to twelve points but with three minutes remaining the game had seemingly been over as a contest since Saints stormed the first half.
Gil Dudson added a fourth on seventy-eight off an Arthur Mourgue offload, with the forward going through a gap from ten metres for the try. Maloney added the conversion for 30-24 with ninety seconds remaining.
Sensationally the Dragons scored their third try in four minutes when Sam Kasiano rose above a crowd of Saints defenders, to take a Josh Drinkwater towering kick, and ground as the final hooter sounded. Maloney added the conversion to level the scores at 30-30, sending the game into Golden Point.
There was nothing pretty about the opening exchanges of extra time with errors from both sides, and with four minutes on the clock a bad tackle from Agnatius Paasi on Samisoni Langi saw the Catalan player stretchered from the field and the Saints player sent from the field with a yellow card from referee Liam Moore, Saints playing with twelve for the rest of Golden Point.
The sides were still locked up after the first five minutes and the sides changed ends to enter the second period.
A wayward pass from Maloney saw the Dragons hand over possession inside their own twenty and on the fourth tackle Coote went for the one-pointer but the ball went wide of the sticks. The Dragons worked the ball downfield and Maloney smacked over a forty-metre drop goal to take the win and to seal the Minor Premiership.
It was a breath-taking fightback from a ‘never say die’ Catalans Dragons who came back from the dead to level the scores in a scintillating last four minutes and force a Saints side who thought they’d won the game at half time, into Golden Point. The Dragons win the Minor Premiership and take the League Leaders Trophy with two games remaining in the regular season.
Surely nothing else could compete with such excitement in what remains of Magic Weekend.
St Helens: Coote (T, 5G), Makinson (T), Naiqama, Percival (SB on 6), Grace, Welsby, Dodd, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia (2T), Bentley, Knowles (T). Subs: Amor, Paasi (SB on 84), Batchelor, Wingfield.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins S (T), Yaha, Langi, Whare (T), Davies, Drinkwater, Maloney (5G, DG), Bousquet (T), McIlorum, Dezaria, Whitley, McMeeken, Goudemand. Subs: Mourgue, Dudson (T), Tomkins J, Kasiano (T, SB on 37).
Full-Time: 30-30. Golden Point: 30-31.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, (SB), 4-6, 8-6, 10-6, 14-6, 16-6, (SB), 18-6 : HT : 22-6, 24-6, 24-10, 24-12, 28-12, 30-12, 30-16, 30-18, 30-22, 30-24, 30-28, 30-30 : FT : (SB), 30-31 : Golden Point.