A deflated Steve McNamara post-match at Old Trafford last night addressed the media with grace and decorum, but in truth, wouldn’t have looked out of place had the press room been holding a wake, and told us that his players need time to ‘mourn’ their Grand Final defeat.
The 10-2 loss to Wigan Warriors was the second time in the space of three seasons that Catalans Dragons have had their hearts broken in the Super League showpiece having previously been beaten by St Helens at the Theatre of Dreams in 2021.
Saints beat them 12-10, and despite the margin of defeat being bigger this time around, the grittiness of their performance was perhaps better in the most part.
McNamara’s side played a quarter of the game down a man, seeing both Adam Keighran and Tom Davies banished to the sin bin by referee Liam Moore.
Surviving the first onslaught from the Warriors during Keighran’s absence in the first half, they’d had the energy sapped out of them by the time Davies’ spell on the sidelines came just after the restart, and it told, with Wigan winger Liam Marshall crossing for what turned out to be the only try of the game.
‘We need a bit of time to mourn now’: Catalans boss Steve McNamara likens Grand Final defeat to a death
In his post-match conference, pride was the overriding emotion for the former England chief. But while opponents Wigan prepared to party the night away, he and his players geared up for a Perpignan return and some much-needed time away.
McNamara told Love Rugby League: “Not too much (needs to change). I think we’ve shown a consistency over the last four years in particular where we’ve finished in the top four and made a couple of Grand Finals, but you’ve got to perform at your very best on the stage that counts.
“I thought we defended great. To defend like that in a Grand Final is what you do need to do, I said before the game that good isn’t good enough to win a Grand Final.
“I thought we were excellent in defence, but poor in attack, we just didn’t put the two parts of the game together to go on a win.
“Right now, it hurts like hell. It’s hugely, hugely disappointing for us as a team. We need a bit of time to mourn now, you do after a death in some regards, that’s how it feels right now.
“We need that bit of time, the players need some time, they definitely need some time off. They won’t feel like it now, but we’ll be ready. Get ready, because we’ll be ready.”
‘Not in a Grand Final’: Dragons chief left frustrated by Adam Keighran yellow
On top of the two yellow cards produced by match official Moore last night, Catalans also lost second-rower Paul Seguier for a large chunk of the first half.
Eventual match-winner Marshall’s studs – unintentionally – scraped across the forehead of the France international in a challenge, cutting open a nasty gash which required some stitches. Seguier would return having been patched up and officially passed a Head Injury Assessment, but everything combined was just too much for the Dragons to deal with.
Boss McNamara, whose owner Bernard Guasch made some fiery comments towards the officials following their 2021 defeat, added: “It was very draining, and we were coming deep out of yardage.
“It’s credit to Wigan, they put us there and we got out of there, but we weren’t getting enough field position to then squeeze it back on the opposition.
“The first one (card) yeah (I have an issue with), the second one’s a professional foul so he probably goes. The first one, I don’t think it’s a sin-bin, not in a Grand Final. It’s not with what we’ve seen in other semi-finals and everything else.
“We just weren’t as good as they were in a couple of key areas which was last plays. They were outstanding in that area, which got them across the line.
“We’ve got to keep working hard, keep developing, and we’re not far off. It’s 10-2, one try to zero, it’s next to nothing in it. That’s the difference between the teams that have won this competition over the last 26/27 years to the rest of us.”