St Helens beat Catalans Dragons to clinch record Super League title

London (AFP) –

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St Helens claimed a record ninth Super League title with a 12-10 Grand Final win against Catalans Dragons on Saturday to deny the French club's bid to make history.

Kevin Naiqama scored two tries and Lachlan Coote made the decisive conversion for Saints, who became the first team to win three successive titles since Leeds in 2009.

Kristian Woolf's men also completed the fourth domestic double in Saints' history after winning the Challenge Cup in July and ended the Dragons' dream of a maiden title.

Steve McNamara's Dragons had already made British rugby league history by breaking the dominance of its northern English heartlands.

The club from Perpignan, southern France, joined Super League in 2006 and became the first non-English team to win the Challenge Cup knockout competition in 2018.

This year, they topped the regular-season table to lift the League Leaders' Shield for the first time and became the first non-English team to reach the Grand Final.

But St Helens held their nerve in the final at Old Trafford to ensure there would be no fairytale ending for the Dragons.

St Helens dominated early on as Catalans' Sam Tomkins, who won the 2021 Man of Steel award for best player of the season, struggled to make an impression after recovering from a knee injury.

James Maloney, whose extra-time drop-goal sank St Helens 31-30 and sealed the League Leaders' Shield for Catalans in September, gave the Dragons an early lead in his final game for the club with a 10th-minute penalty.

But Naiqama pierced the Dragons' defence and contorted his body to ground the ball past the line for St Helens.

Coote extended Saints' lead to four points with a 22nd-minute penalty after Ben Garcia was penalised for a high tackle on Jonny Lomax.

Maloney converted his second penalty in the 28th minute to cut the deficit as St Helens led 6-4 at half-time.

Saints were reduced to 12 men after Tommy Makinson was sin-binned for a try-saving high tackle on Fouad Yaha.

The Dragons made their numerical advantage count in the 50th minute when Saints failed to defend a high ball and Mike McMeeken dotted down.

Maloney's conversion gave Catalans a 10-6 lead to send their small contingent of travelling fans wild.

But Fiji international Naiqama, who will leave St Helens to spend more time with his family in Australia, scored a decisive second try

He latched on to Lomax's kick in the 66th minute, with Coote's conversion putting St Helens 12-10 in front with 13 minutes remaining.