Catalans winning League Leaders’ Shield “tremendous” for French rugby league

Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara
The Dragons received a guard of honour from Huddersfield players who had just won 30-18 thanks to a second-half comeback inspired by Olly Ashall-Bott and Oliver Russell.

But defeat could not take the shine away from the shield for McNamara as he said: “To finish top of the competition and show that level of consistency that is needed, is a massive stride forward for the club and tremendous for everybody involved with Catalans Dragons, our supporters, players, staff and directors.

“And more than that it is tremendous for French Rugby League and the town of Perpignan.

“In our short history we have created great stories and there are more stories to come.

“It’s a new name up there, it’s great publicity. When you get a non-English team winning the league leaders’ shield, it creates headlines so we’re very happy and we will celebrate and acknowledge our achievement.

“We deserved to finish top of the competition but we’ve got to go again and we will do.

“We should not underestimate our achievements and just how difficult it is to finish top.”

McNamara was not too unhappy with defeat to the Giants after fielding several young French players but he said it will be a different Dragons side that goes to Wigan next week for the final game of the regular season.

He added: “By finishing first we have earned the right to plot our path to the semi-final. Tonight, clearly, our team selection has enabled us to be in a better position next week.

“I view the game at Wigan as the first semi-final for us, it is that standard of game.

“Wigan want to win next week to finish in the top four and it is the perfect opportunity for us to play a ‘first’ semi-final.

“We’ll be going there as strong as we possibly can and ready to get ourselves in prime condition for that ‘second’ semi-final.

“I thought we tried really hard, got off to a great start but it was clear that we didn’t have our strongest team out there tonight.

“We’re happy with the effort but disappointed with the result but I won’t be too critical tonight.”

Catalans were 18-12 ahead at half-time but could not halt a Huddersfield rival which left Giants coach Ian Watson beaming with pride.

He said: “It’s a great win coming to Catalans, it’s always great to win here.

“We were really disappointed last week, we were flat and lacked energy and we told ourselves we couldn’t do that again this week.

“We needed more energy than the Catalans team.

“We knew they would make some changes for this game and they started with enthusiasm and it hurt us but we showed great resilience to come back and win the game.”