DRAGONS ROAR

Steve McNa­mara’s French side make Chal­lenge Cup his­tory at Wem­b­ley

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - PETER SMITH

NEXT OP­PO­NENTS Castle­ford Tigers could be im­me­di­ate ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Cata­lans Dragons’ his­toric Chal­lenge Cup win.

Cata­lans, who de­feated War­ring­ton Wolves 20-14 at Wem­b­ley, lost seven of their open­ing eight Su­per League games, but a mid-sea­son run of eight wins and a draw from nine matches se­cured top-flight sur­vival with a game in hand.

Ei­ther side of the semi-fi­nal they lost their fi­nal Su­per League fix­ture and first two in the Su­per8s, with coach Steve McNa­mara mak­ing no se­cret of the fact the Cup had be­come their sole fo­cus.

With that goal achieved, Cata­lans will spend much of this week cel­e­brat­ing be­fore re­turn­ing to Eng­land for Satur­day’s game at Whel­don Road.

McNa­mara joked: “I’m not sure what we’re go­ing to do, we might have to call off the last five league games I think.

“I am not sure how I am go­ing to get th­ese boys ready to go again – we might not get out of Per­pig­nan af­ter this.”

McNa­mara, a former Brad­ford Bulls and Eng­land coach who also played for Hull and Hud­der­s­field, in­sisted: “I knew be­fore the sea­son started it would be a dif­fi­cult start for us.

“I didn’t ex­pect it to be as dif­fi­cult, but the play­ers im­ple­mented change in ev­ery­thing they did, on the field and off it. It has started to pay div­i­dends for them.

“They have put in some un­be­liev­able per­for­mances in the sec­ond half of the sea­son to se­cure Su­per League sta­tus and now we’ve won the Cup which is great credit and tes­ta­ment to the play­ers. I wasn’t sure whether we’d win the Chal­lenge Cup this year, but I was con­fi­dent we’d start play­ing well and we’ll con­tinue to grow as a club as well.

“That’s what we need to do, keep de­vel­op­ing and im­prov­ing in cer­tain as­pects so we can chal­lenge for the Grand Fi­nal as well as the Chal­lenge Cup.”

War­ring­ton are fourth in Su­per League, but their semi-fi­nal as­pi­ra­tions are un­der pres­sure from in-form Hud­der­s­field Gi­ants.

Coach Steve Price, who ad­mit­ted Cata­lans were the bet­ter team, stressed: “It is go­ing to be a re­ally good chal­lenge.

“We have got to get our heads up and get back on the horse be­cause we’ve got Hull FC on Thurs­day night.”

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