|Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final|
|St Helens (0) 16|
|Tries: Percival 2, McCarthy-Scarsbrook Goals: Richardson 2|
|Catalans Dragons (27) 35|
|Tries: Tierney, Garcia 2, Gigot, Moa Goals: Drinkwater 7 Drop-goal: Gigot|
Catalans Dragons pulled off a stunning win over runaway Super League leaders St Helens to reach the Challenge Cup final for only the second time in their history.
The French side went 27-0 up in a frantic first half, with Lewis Tierney running in at the corner to open Catalans’ try-scoring account after Josh Drinkwater’s early penalty.
Ben Garcia scored two tries either side of Tony Gigot’s score as Catalans opened up an unassailable lead.
Mark Percival and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook crossed for St Helens but Sam Moa’s try wrapped up a sensational win for Catalans, who will play Warrington at Wembley on 25 August.
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Catalans’ shock win means they will appear in the final for the first time since a 30-8 loss to Saints in 2007.
Saints’ defeat in Bolton means they have fallen at the penultimate hurdle of the competition for the fifth time since their last final appearance in 2008.
Catalans, who are coached by ex-England boss Steve McNamara, ended their chase of a domestic treble in 2018. However, Justin Holbrook’s side have a formidable lead at the top of Super League and are strong favourites to lift the League Leaders’ Shield.
Catalans’ win underlines their change in fortunes in 2018, having initially started the campaign poorly. Their Super League form improved, however, as they sealed a place in the top eight with an outside shot of a play-off spot.
Few would have said they would beat Saints in quite the fashion they did on a scorching day in Greater Manchester, but they did, and with gusto.
Saints’ first half to forget
Saints came close to bridging an eight-point gap soon after Tierney crossed, but Gigot and Garcia combined to halt James Roby’s run to the try-line.
St Helens’ frustrations showed before half-time, as Morgan Knowles caught Kenny Edwards with a shot to the neck and was sent to the sin-bin.
Catalans took full advantage of their extra man as Garcia and Gigot both crossed over to open up a sizeable lead on their opponents by half-time.
Saints’ talisman, Australian full-back Ben Barba, had an uncharacteristically quiet match, and they left their comeback too late.
‘Catalans bullied us off the park’ – post-match reaction
Catalans Dragons full-back and man of the match Tony Gigot told BBC Sport:
“It is a beautiful feeling and I’m very proud to be part of this team. We were awesome today.
“All the boys never stopped working, and when you work hard it pays. This group works so hard and now we’re going to Wembley.”
Catalans Dragons half-back Josh Drinkwater:
“We probably did enough in the first half to win when we were outstanding.
“We got a few lucky calls and bounces but you make your own luck, and we’ve been working really hard over the past 12 weeks. This is the reward for that effort.
“Now we need to focus on the Super 8s, keep winning our games and go to Wembley full of confidence.”
Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara:
“It’s incredible for the club. Last year we were in the Million Pound Game and this year we’re at Wembley. It’s been a fantastic turnaround and the players have worked extremely hard.
“We’ve got three weeks to get ready for the final and we’ll use that time to hopefully put in a performance like we did today.
“We couldn’t let Saints play. If we had come here, sat back and let them play we would have been in all sorts of trouble but that was the most physical we’ve probably been.
“Getting to the final will mean a lot for French rugby league. It needs a boost and hopefully us getting to the final will do that.”
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook:
“Full credit to Catalans, they came and bullied us off the park and we had no answers.
“We made too many errors and they took full advantage of it. They did to us what we’ve been doing to a lot of teams. It’s really disappointing.”
St Helens: Barba; Swift, Makinson, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Richardson; Amor, Roby, Thompson, Knowles, Taia, Wilkin.
Interchanges: Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Lees.
Catalans Dragons: Gigot; Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha; Langi, Drinkwater; Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Casty.
Interchanges: Bousquet, Anderson, Edwards, Baitieri.
Referee: Robert Hicks