SAINTS produced a tremendous performance in the rain at Blackbrook to beat Catalans 56-0, writes Graham Henthorne.
For many a month the Dragons were the Saints biggest rivals but has had a torrid time since the Saints beat them in the South of France earlier this year.
They came to the game today knowing they needed a win to make the play-offs but they came up against an uncompromising Saints that were in no mood to be beaten.
Dave Eccleston opened the account on six minutes as he took a wide ball bouncing off his opposite number to go in at the corner.
The Dragons were finding it difficult to cope with the Saints tough tackling making only rare visits to the Saints 20 and dropping the ball often whenever they got there.
Jake Spedding increased the Saints lead with the first of his long range brace taking a Brad Billsborough wide pass before stepping inside and outpacing the cover over 50 metres to the line.
The Saints went 16 points clear with Eccleston’s second of the opening quarter. Drives from Saints own Frenchman Levy Nzoungou and Evan Bullen put the Saints on the attack before quick hands from Ricky Bailey and Matty Costello put the winger in for an identical effort to his first.
The Saints then went away from the game plan getting dragged into a forward battle which was exactly what the visitors wanted.
Then came the game changer as a massive flare up ended with the sinbinning of Billsborough for a late tackle but the sending off of the Dragons substitute prop for running in and landing a punch on Jordan Olmez.
The Saints responded best to the taunting of their opponents with a huge tackle on the restart which forced the knock on and sent the message out that they were not to be intimidated.
This was reinforced moments later as Captain Liam Cooper charged on to short pass from Josh Eaves to give the Saints a 22 point lead at the break.
The Dragons came out after the break with renewed resolve putting the Saints under some pressure for the first ten minutes. But after Spedding expertly mopped up a grubber behind his own still making 10 metres and then a massive hit from Cooper had forced the error on the Dragons next possession the fire went out of the beast.
From the scrum the ball was swept out to Costello who dummied his way through the line going 40 to the corner.
From the restart an Eaves dart at the play the ball put Olmez away and the big prop kept his head to commit the fullback before feeding the supporting Danny Richardson or the try.
The third Saints try in as many sets came as Eaves darted blind twice finally putting Regan Grace over in the left corner.
The final quarter became an exercise in self-preservation as the visitors put in cheap shot after cheap shot and the Saints showed admirable discipline not to retaliate.
Spedding showed exactly the right response as he arced wide down the left going 90 metres to the line.
Again from the restart the Saints marched effortlessly down field with Billsborough putting a well-judged grubber through to the Catalans line. The winger tried to knock it dead but only succeeded in allowing Costello to dive over him for the try.
The last try was probably the worst of the lot as a terrible Richardson kick was luckily taken by Bailey with Billsborough just about taking his terrible pass for the score. If you were there you’ll know what I mean!! Richardson’s eighth fabulous conversion ended the scoring.
Anyone walking around the Brook area at 12 o’clock quoting this score as the final would have been led into a quiet area and held there until the ambulance arrived. Especially with the inclusion of halfbacks Albert and Da Costa who have been leading the Dragons first team around for the past few weeks.
But the Saints were having none of it sending just the right sort of message out to their play-off rivals that the Saints still mean business and will no matter what your reputation.
Richardson’s return from injury was pivotal to this performance but Cooper and his second row compatriot Ben Morris were outstanding in showing the other 15 their way.
The play-off semi-final is due to be played at Langtree on Saturday the 17th at 13:00.
Tries: David Eccleston (6 & 23), Jake Spedding (17 & 63), Liam Cooper (35), Matty Costello (52 & 65), Danny Richardson (55), Regan Grace (58), Brad Billsborough (70).
Goals: Danny Richardson 8/10.
Half Time: 22-0
Full Time: 56-0
1. Ricky Bailey; 2. David Eccleston, 4. Matty Costello, 3. Jake Spedding, 5. Regan Grace; 6. Danny Richardson, 7. Brad Billsborough; 8. Levy Nzoungou, 9. Aaron Smith, 17. Alex Eckley, 11. Liam Cooper (C), 12. Ben Morris, 13. Mike Weldon.
Subs: 10. Jordan Olmez, 14. Josh Eaves, 15. Chris Follin, 16. Evan Bullen.
1. Pierre Bise; 2. Jordan Flovie, 4. Vincent Albert, 3. Arthur Romano, 5. Paul Izard; 6. Lucas Albert, 7. Alrix Da Costa; 8. Lambert Belmas, 9. Mathieu Tovena, 10. Paul Seguier, 11. Jordan Delara, 12. Alexandre Mickalezyk, 13. Matthieu Khedimi.
Subs: 14. Romain Pallares, 15. Nourdine Sebea, 16. Quentin Quenener, 17. Sebastien Nietche Corones.