In a weekend of remarkable results and headlines aplenty, Catalans’ 48-0 victory at home to Wigan might have topped the lot.
Heading into the game with just one defeat to their name all season, Steve McNamara’s Dragons oozed class and confidence as they ended the Warriors’ unbeaten start to the new season, seven days on from bestowing a similar fate upon Super League holders St Helens.
It is a result that will have shocked many casual supporters, but in reality the seeds of promise have been sewn for quite a while at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.
And while headlines still remain around the uncertain future of Israel Folau, who finds himself embroiled in a legal dispute back in his native Australia over attempts to make a return to action, it is worth paying more attention to the players that have that remained in Perpignan.
Character, depth and trust in their own
Dragons supporters might well have been forgiven for fearing the worst when it was announced that regular full-back Sam Tomkins and Tonga international Samisoni Langi had both withdrawn at the eleventh hour, prior to their game against St Helens last weekend.
Against the unbeaten Saints, head coach Steve McNamara was forced to turn to outside back Mathieu Laguerre, who had only appeared once before for the Dragons and was instead expected to be playing for their reserve side against Lezignan, and Arthur Mourgue, an able yet inexperienced understudy to Tomkins.
Both of the 22-year-olds epitomise Catalans’ approach of mixing experienced names with French talent still in the early-mid stage of their development.
Neither men did their chances of selection any harm after a hard-fought win at the Brutus, with McNamara praising the duo in his post-match analysis.
One week on, Laguerre and Mourgue were both present against the Warriors, with the former crossing for the last of Catalans’ eight tries and the latter stepping his way over the line in the second half of a thoroughly dominant display.
With fifteen players of French nationality handed squad numbers for 2021, it seems that a ‘slowly but surely’ approach to the further development of homegrown talent is the way forward for the Dragons.
On the basis of Laguerre and Mourgue, their two most recent shining lights, that trust could easily pay dividends in the weeks ahead.
Can they go all the way?Since their acceptance into Super League in 2006, Catalans have never made it to a grand final.
In fact, they have failed to qualify for the play-offs on seven occasions and were even forced to battle for top flight survival in the 2017 Million Pound Game, relegating Leigh after coming from behind to score 22 second half points.
Many star names have achieved cult status at the club. French talent, the likes of Thomas Bosc and Olivier Elima, and overseas imports such as Scott Dureau, Clint Greenshields and even Stacey Jones.
No matter their length of service, all of these names, and more, have played their part in the development of the Dragons, without ever managing to go all the way to Old Trafford.
Yes, two Challenge Cup final appearances – including their historic 20-14 victory over Warrington at Wembley in 2018 – show their prowess when it comes to competing at the top level.
However, their ability to maintain the levels of consistency on the road that they have shown so far in 2021, combined with an ability to restore the Stade Gilbert Brutus as a fortress, feared by opposition players and coaches alike, that will really dictate how far the Dragons can go this season.
The last seven days have underlined exactly why the Dragons are a force to be reckoned with, but there must be more days like these.
“We’ve had a great start to the season and the challenge now is maintain and improve,” an understandably delighted McNamara said following Saturday’s rout of Wigan, five-time Super League winners.
“It’s still early on, it’s a long season but I’m very happy with the way we are going,” he added.
McNamara is correct. The 2021 season is still in its infancy, but the table is already starting to take shape.
Catalans have put themselves firmly in the mix at the top end of Super League, but the question will remain over whether they can stay there.