St Helens 26-12 Catalans: Saints grind out victory over Dragons
By Press Association Sport
Last Updated: 03/05/18 11:59pm
Free-scoring St Helens showed their defensive mettle to grind out a 26-12 win over Catalans Dragons and move four points clear at the top of the Betfred Super League.
After racking up 126 points in their two previous games, the absence of top try-scorer Ben Barba dulled their scoring prowess against a Dragons side that competed well without threatening to pull off a shock result.
Saints coach Justin Holbrook opted to rest Barba after he injured his neck at Salford but the home side were boosted by the return of evergreen hooker James Roby from a three-match absence with a rib injury.
And Roby was at his best as the leaders dominated play for the first 15 minutes, with Jonny Lomax taking the opportunity to demonstrate his attacking prowess from full-back.
They carved out an early two-man overlap but missed a glorious chance to open the scoring when Lomax's pass went behind left winger Regan Grace but right winger Tom Makinson was more clinical as he made one try and scored another.
After finding himself in space after a neat passing move, Makinson produced a pinpoint grubber kick for Lomax to score the first try of the match and then plucked the ball out of the air following Richardson's high kick for a well-taken touchdown.
Richardson kicked one conversion as Saints led 10-0 but the Catalans gradually came more into the game through the prompting of half-backs Sami Langi and Josh Drinkwater.
Substitute forward Antoni Maria was held up over the line on the half-hour mark but the Dragons maintained the pressure and were awarded a try to centre Brayden Wiliame after he appeared to touch down Drinkwater's kick simultaneously with Saints' Ryan Morgan.
The revival was short-lived however, as the home side struck back immediately, taking advantage of a handling error from Maria, as substitute loose forward Morgan Knowles powered his way over for a solo try.
Richardson's second goal made it 16-4 at the break and Saints extended their lead within five minutes of the restart when quickfire passing worked Grace over for their fourth try.
A breakaway try from Catalans winger Jodie Broughton, profiting from a breakdown in a passing move from St Helens inside their own half, gave the visitors further hope as the game entered a period of stalemate.
Saints were forced into some tough defence as Dragons captain Remi Casty was brought down short of the line while second rower Louis Anderson lost control of the ball as he stretched out for a try.
Saints loose forward Jon Wilkin then had a try disallowed for a double movement before another impressive handling move enabled Grace to claim his second try and Richardson kicked his third goal.
The French club were far from disgraced, however, and had the final say when right winger Lewis Tierney scored their third try four minutes from the end, although Drinkwater missed his third conversion attempt.