Catalans coach Steve McNamara hailed a fairytale debut by centre Mathieu Laguerre as they clinched a dramatic 29-28 win over Hull KR.
McNamara turned to the 22-year-old after losing Samisoni Langi and Arthur Romano to injury and with Israel Folau still in Australia and was thrilled to see him create one try and score another to gain the man-of-the-match award in their golden point extra-time win over Hull KR in their opening game of the Betfred Super League.
“He didn’t know he was playing until Thursday,” said McNamara. “He’s gone in there and played extremely well.
“He’s been with us two or three years now but he was very thin – physically he wasn’t in a position to compete at that level – but he’s worked hard on that.
“He always had a talent and he’s actually got great physique and the ability to be a really big centre. He didn’t look out of place at all.”
The Dragons have taken a conscious decision to reduce the average age of their squad and to give more opportunities to French players this year and McNamara says the opening result is a vindication of the policy.
Hooker Alrix Da Costa played 80 minutes as a replacement for the suspended Michael McIlorum and full-back Arthur Mourgue produced a last-minute break that created the position for James Maloney to kick the winning drop goal.
“To get the experience in a game like that will stay with those young boys for a long time,” McNamara said.
“I’m thrilled for them and I’m thrilled for the coaches and the people who have helped develop them before us.
“It was a decision we wanted to make to give these players an opportunity. There was a bit of anticipation before the game about how they would actually play but they surpassed all my expectations.”