McNamara: Catalans fans’ Nou Camp turn out silences Wembley critics

Catalans boss Steve McNamara says the occasion at the Nou Camp was the perfect response to criticism of the club’s following at Wembley in last year’s Challenge Cup final.

The Dragons created history by becoming the first French team to win the famous trophy back in August, and their 33-16 win over Wigan on Saturday was another historic occasion – setting a new regular season attendance record for Super League.

A total of 31,555 fans attending at the home of FC Barcelona, the majority of which were backing the Dragons.

McNamara said: “I’m ecstatic. It was a big occasion for our club and a big occasion for rugby league.

“We couldn’t get the players off the field at the end of the game, they just wanted to stay on there and rightly so.

“When we got to Wembley, we got criticised for only taking five or six thousand fans across to London in the middle of the summer when we only had two weeks to prepare for that.

“Wigan have returned the favour today, they’ve brought five thousand, and this was our fans’ opportunity to come from Perpignan in their hoardes.

“If you drove from Perpignan to Barcelona today you would have seen exactly what you see on a Wembley trip, all the fans coming across in their colours.

“This place is spiritual to the people of Catalans. It’s more than just a stadium.”

Catalans led 8-6 at half time, thanks to Micky McIlorum’s try and two Tony Gigot goals, before a deadly spell of three tries in eight minutes put the game well beyond Wigan.

Big forward Sam Kasiano was the star of the show, while classy centre David Mead scored a brace of tries.

McNamara added: “To come in to a coliseum, a stadium like this and get to play rugby league and the way we played was very gladiatorial, very physical, was very pleasing for us.

“We had to find a different way to win today. We lost Sam Tomkins, we started with Greg Bird and Samisoni Langi in the halves and lost Greg after 15 minutes through a bicep injury.

“The way we won was through our defence, we forced errors and picked up scraps, it was a great way to win.

“You win games with your defence, yes we scored 30 points, but it was the defence that won us that game.”

Catalans are up to third in the Super League table and have a tasty looking tie against Wakefield at the Magic Weekend at Anfield next Saturday.