Catalans Dragons inflicted a first defeat of the season on Super League holders St Helens with an enthralling 20-16 victory at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.
Out-of-sorts Saints looked jet-lagged in the face of a powerful Catalans performance led by man-of-the-match Australian stand-off James Maloney.
A late revival by the champions led to a frantic finish in Perpignan but Saints couldn’t quite finish the job as the champions crumbled to their first defeat of the Super League season.
The Dragons were hit by the sudden loss of star full-back Sam Tomkins and centre Samisoni Langi, who both pulled out with injuries just before kick-off, but young French replacements Arthur Mourgue and Mathieu Laguerre filled the gaps with flair.
Maloney put Catalans ahead with an early penalty and then weaved his way through the Saints defence for a try on 26 minutes.
Full-back Lachlan Coote got Saints on the scoreboard with a penalty just before half-time but the champions buckled early in the second half when Mike McMeeken’s clever blind flick put Kiwi centre Dean Whare over the line, Maloney’s conversion stretching Catalans’ lead to 14-2.
Saints hit back with a Mark Percival try but Coote couldn’t convert then Ben Jullien crossed for Catalans, Maloney converting from the touchline to make it 20-6.
Percival bagged his second try on 71 minutes then Regan Grace crossed to make it a four-point ball-game with just three minutes left.
A series of late penalties had the French supporters, including Dragons President Bernard Guasch, howling at referee Robert Hicks but the Dragons managed to resist a late Saints onslaught and left the fans singing for the first time this year.
Catalans: Mourgue; Davies, Whare, Laguerre, Yaha; Maloney, Drinkwater; Dudson, McIlorum, Bousquet, McMeeken, Jullien, Garcia. Subs: Da Costa, Goudemand, J. Tomkins, Kasiano.
Tries: Maloney, Whare, Jullien. Goals: Maloney 4
St Helens: Coote; Naiqama, Percival, Welsby, Grace; Lomax, Fages; Pa’asi, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mata’utia, Thompson, Knowles. Subs: Walmsley, Amor, Batchelor, Dodd.
Tries: Percival 2, Grace. Goals: Coote 2