Steve McNamara: Adversity made Dragons stronger

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Steve McNamara believes the adversity Catalans Dragons have been through in the past 12 months inspired their remarkable 35-16 victory over St Helens in the Challenge Cup semi-finals.

The former England coach took over the Dragons midway through last season with the club struggling near the bottom of Super League and was unable to steer the French club away from danger.

Catalans were a game away from dropping out of Super League before beating Leigh in the Million Pound Game and made a slow start to this year after their France internationals returned to pre-season training late following the World Cup.

But McNamara’s men finished the regular season with seven wins and a draw from their last 10 matches and caused one of the biggest shocks in the Challenge Cup’s recent history to stun Saints.

The Dragons were 27-0 up after a sensational first-half performance and saw out a famous win to reach Wembley for only the second time in their history.

“Going from the Million Pound Game to securing our top-eight spot last week and going to Wembley is huge for our club and big for French rugby league,” said McNamara.

“We have the opportunity now. We’re still a club that haven’t won a trophy. To do that would be amazing for everybody involved. It’s truly been a team effort to get us back to this stage from where we
were last year.

“The tough times have put us in a better position today to go on and win a game like this.

“I hear a lot about how great other teams’ spirits are but that’s easy if you’re winning every week. You try sitting after 11 games with only two wins and see how close your group is then. That’s when
you find out whether you splint or break from each other.

“That’s the situation we were facing and it wasn’t a great spot. So to respond to that has really put us in a better position to win that game.”

Catalans were blown away by St Helens on their previous trip to Wembley in 2007 and McNamara admitted his team will have to do it tough if they are to go one better on August 25.

“We’ve got to navigate our way through now,” he added.

St Helens v Catalans Dragons – Ladbrokes Challenge Cup – Semi Final – Macron Stadium
Catalans Dragons fans celebrate reaching the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final (Dave Howarth/PA)

St Helens are set to clinch the League Leaders’ Shield in the early stages of the Super 8s but head coach Justin Holbrook conceded he has work to do to pick his players up.

“We tried to outplay them right from the start and played into their hands,” he said.

Justin Holbrook admits it will be tough to lift his players
Justin Holbrook admits it will be tough to lift his players (Richard Sellers/PA)

“I’m not sure how I’ll pick them up; I hadn’t been planning on having to pick them up.
“The easy answer is for me to say, ‘No, we’re fine’, but right now I’m shattered and really devastated.

“We were poor today but we’re a good side and we’ll be OK. It just hurts at the moment.”

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