|Catalans (2) 12
|Tries: Tomkins Goals: Keighran 4
|St Helens (0) 6
|Tries: Hopoate Goals: Percival
Sam Tomkins came up with the clutch play and try to take Catalans Dragons back to the Grand Final and end St Helens’ hold on the Super League title.
In a ferocious first half, the only points came from Adam Keighran for Catalans, who saw Tom Johnstone’s try ruled out for a push on Jonny Lomax.
Will Hopoate crossed to put Saints in front but Keighran’s goals drew the Dragons level in a tight affair.
In the last seconds, Tomkins dummied to kick and scored to spark celebrations.
Tomkins’ influence on Catalans since his move to Perpignan five seasons ago has been keenly felt, and it was fitting in his final season that he was the man to deliver a second Grand Final in three years.
While he was able to celebrate the big moment with a champagne finish, thoughts turned to James Roby and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, both of whom were bowing out with Saints after stellar careers.
They were crucial parts of a Saints side which won four Grand Finals in a row – particularly Roby, who as captain lifted the trophy in recent seasons.
Both teams gave everything in a match which before the explosive finish was as nerve-shredding and physical as any play-off game.
From minute one the tone was set by defensive savagery – so much so that points were at a premium and neither attack really got going in a pulsating Perpignan atmosphere.
Where attacks failed, and other than Johnstone’s chalked-off effort, it was down to errors to produce points, largely from the tee with Keighran taking a shot at goal after a Saints misdemeanour.
The visitors found more rhythm after a stifling first half, eventually cracking the Dragons line when Saints full-back Jack Welsby dropped off to Hopoate on a switch, and the Tonga international powered through for the first try.
Saints, who had an equally bruising game against Warrington only six days ago and had to travel to Perpignan for this game, failed to convert further chances as the Dragons muscled up defensively.
Conversely, they conceded cheap penalties, notably when Matty Lees was sin-binned for holding down in the tackle, and that allowed Catalans to chip away at, and then cancel out the lead.
Golden-point time loomed, as a drop goal chance was squandered by the home side, but Tomkins’ smarts at the age of 34 saw him dance beyond a tired defence and send the Stade Gilbert Brutus into delirium.
The Perpignan support will need to find flights, ferries and buses now to make the trip to Old Trafford on 14 October, after Steve McNamara added another final to his Challenge Cup win and Grand Final appearance in his time in charge.
For Saints and Paul Wellens, the glory of becoming world champions back in February will have to suffice, after they came so close to a record-extending fifth straight Super League Grand Final win.
Catalans: Tomkins; Davies, Keighran, Ikuvalu, Johnstone; May, Pearce; Taukeiaho, McIlorum, McMeeken, Seguier, Whitley, Garcia.
Interchanges: Mourgue, Bousquet, Navarrete, Ma’u.
St Helens: Welsby; Makinson, Percival, Hopoate, Bennison; Lomax, Dodd; McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Sironen, Knowles.
Interchanges: Walmsley, Bell, Delaney, Mbye.
Referee: Chris Kendall (RFL)
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