Catalans (A) – Round 7 Preview Phil Jones 20th May 2021 2021 Season Saints continued their unbeaten start to the season in all competitions with a comprehensive 28-0 victory over the Salford Red Devils in front of 4,000 fans at the TWS. It had been over 14 months since fans were allowed to attend their last game, so as you can imagine it was quite emotional for fans and players when the side came out for their warm up, as they came out to a fantastic reception. It was different but as one of the lucky 4,000 in attendance it was good to be back. The Salford side also came out to applause from the Saints faithful, which was also a nice touch, given there were no away fans present. It wasn’t a classic Saints performance, but it was a comprehensive performance in the 2nd half as we scored four unanswered tries to take the game 28-0. The 1st half wasn’t so great though and was littered with errors in good areas as we either forced passes or just made frustrating handling errors. As a result, we led just 6-0 at half time thanks to an Alex Walmsley try but it should’ve perhaps been more. The 2nd half was much better though as we built more pressure, controlled the ball much better and the points came as Fages, Naiqama, LMS and Grace rounded off the scoring. Fages, Naiqama and Grace’s try in particular were excellent efforts and showed what this Saints team can do when we execute our plays well. Having watched enough of this Saints team the last couple of seasons, I am starting to wonder if our attacking performances will be fairly limited to this throughout and we will be relying on a brick wall defence to get us the wins. Our defence once again was simply magnificent. We didn’t give Salford a sniff really and whenever we did, we scrambled extremely well. It is the 2nd team we have nilled this season and we are averaging just 8.75 points conceded per game, which is extraordinary. Our defence will be tested more once we play tougher sides but with efforts like that, we will be very hard to beat. Eight players hit the 100m mark in a dominant display with Naiqama (159), Walmsley (156), Welsby (126), Grace (124), Coote (112), Lomax (111), LMS (106) and Amor (105). Joel Thompson topped the tackle count with 35, Roby and LMS with 34, Mata’utia with 31 and Fages with 29. This week we play away at Catalans Dragons and it is over 2 years since we last played in the South of France following the game being called off last year. This will arguably be our biggest test thus far as Catalans can be extremely tough to play on their own patch and have some very good talent that can cause us problems. Saints go into a run of games against Catalans, Hull x 2, Leeds and Warrington which will truly test us now so it will be interesting to see how we respond. Our Opponents Catalans have started the season very well and currently sit 3rd on the ladder following five wins out of six, their only defeat coming at home to Warrington. On their travels they have been flawless and overcome an in-form Hull side 27-10 last Monday at the KCOM Stadium, which will put them in confident mood. One thing you’ve always been able to level at Catalans in the past is their inconsistency, but so far this season they have been consistent and picked up the wins. Their team is littered with talent though with the likes of Sam Tomkins, James Maloney, Michael McIlorum, Mike McMeekan, Dean Whare amongst others and their park is always competitive. If Catalans play like they are capable of then this will prove to be a very tricky game. Saints will need to be on their A game to win this weekend. St Helens Lachlan Coote, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Joel Thompson, Morgan Knowles, Sione Mata’utia, LMS, Kyle Amor, Agnatius Paasi, Aaron Smith, Jack Welsby, Joe Batchelor, Josh Simm, Lewis Dodd, Dan Norman, Ben Davies. Saints picked up no injuries against Salford and with no players returning this week, therefore have named an unchanged 21 man squad. It is likely Saints will go in with the same 17 for the 1st time this season with Lewis Dodd, Dan Norman, Ben Davies and Josh Simm all likely to miss out again for Saints. Makinson should return in a few weeks but Lees and Bentley are long term absentees and wont feature any time soon. Referee – Robert Hicks Kick Off – Saturday 22nd May, 5pm (UK time) Venue – Stade Gilbert Brutus Weather Forecast Temperatures are expected to be the warmest of the season for the Saints as they hit the 18 degrees mark for kick off. It is expected to stay dry but could be slightly cloudy. Head-to-Head Last 6 games – Saints 4 wins, Catalans 2 win. Last meeting – St Helens 48 – 2 Catalans Dragons, Totally Wicked Stadium The Saints have a mixed record against Catalans having lost 2 of the last 6. One of those was the 2018 Challenge Cup Semi Final as we lost emphatically by 35-16 following a poor performance at the Marcon Stadium, and the other was an 18-10 defeat in the South of France back in 2019, our last visit to the Stade Gilbert Brutus. We did beat Catalans on both occasions last season though, as we comfortably dispatched them 34-6 in the 1st game after lockdown and 48-2 in the Play Offs. Prediction This is a big test for Saints. Catalans have lost just two games this season so far in all competitions and both of those came against Warrington as they lost 24-8 and 16-6. They have beaten everybody else so far and performed exceptionally well last week against Hull. The games in France are always tough and they will be backed by 1,000 fans this weekend. The key to this one will be holding a strong pack early and wearing them down. If we can contain their pack then we should win the game. Saints by 10.