It’s been one hundred and thirty-nine days, twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes since the final hooter sounded on the last rugby league game to be played in Super League but after a terrible four and a half months, with the losses of lives and livelihoods, the greatest game was finally back, albeit in much changed circumstances.
First up was a re-arranged round four fixture between St Helens and the Catalans Dragons played at Emerald Headingley behind closed doors. There would be no scrums, the new six again rule, and a game likely to be played at high speed.
Things have changed in the World, possibly forever, and inevitably this is reflected in our game. But now is the time to try and return to some semblance of normality, even if it is a new normality for everyone.
It was an end to end opening twelve minutes with little to choose between the two sides. Last tackle plays left a little to be desired and when there was a late tackle on Morgan Knowled by James Roby Saints elected to tak ethe kick for goal with Lachlan Coote accurate with the boot from thirty metres.
Saints got the first four pointer after the restart as Coote got the ball to ground after a superb knock back inside from Zeb Taia. Coote was unable to convert what looked like an easy opportunity, Saints 6-0 ahead.
Saints second came on twenty-five when James Bentley got his hand on a grubber kick to the corner. Coote dropped his conversion just short, Saints 10-0 ahead.
On thirty-two Taia added the third try off a short Jonny Lomax pass, the Saints stamina exposing a tired Dragons defence as the half wore on. Coote added the conversion for 16-0, the Dragons already up against it with Saints taking full control.
The Dragons went close on thirty-seven but the Saints defence held strong and the French side wnet into the shed scoreless.
Five minutes after the restart a flowing move from Saints saw Coote end up with the ball to run over from ten metres for the try. Coote added the goal to his own try. Saints were in again on fifty-three as Tommy Makinson waltzed his way through the broken Catalans Dragons defence mesmerising the tacklers to cross for a far too easy try. Coote kicked again for 28-0.
An hour had passed before the first Dragons try when James Maloney dropped a shoulder and found a gap to canter in from twenty metres. Maloney converted his own try for 6-28.
On seventy Alex Walmsley pushed away Julien Bosquet to go in from twenty metres, scoring by the left upright. Coote kicked his fifth try of the afternoon for 34-6.
Two supposedly rusty sides put on a decent enough game, but it was the Saints who had far too much for the Dragons in warm, stamina sapping conditions. There were too many gaps in the Catalans defence, and way too much skill amongst the seasoned Saints players to exploit them. The win lifts Saints above the Dragons into fifth spot in the early season table and will give them a boost to defend their title as the games start to come thick and fast.
Saints: Coote (2T, 5G), Makinson (T), Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley (T), Roby, Taia (T), Knowles, Bentley (T), Graham. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Smith, Batchelor.
Dragons: Langi, Folau, Yaha, Maloney (T, G), Drinkwater, Casty, McIlorum, Whitley, Tomkins J, Garcia, Bosquet, Davies, Mourgue. Subs: Moa, Da Costa, Baitieri, Kasiano.
Referee: Ben Thaler.
Ground: Emerald Headingley, Leeds