Catalans Dragons 28 Hull KR 10: Rovers’ Grand Final hopes end as Dragons make history

FOR Hull KR to reach a maiden Super League Grand Final, by winning at a hostile sold-out Stade Gilbert Brutus tonight, they had to show precision in everything they did.

Unfortunately for Tony Smith’s side, also hoping to become the first side to qualify for Old Trafford from sixth, they delivered one of their scrappiest displays of what has been an otherwise wonderful 2021.

Instead, it is Catalans Dragons, roared on by their brilliant and electric home support, who deservedly made history, marching on to their own first Grand Final - just four years to the day since avoiding relegation in the Million Pound Game.

Ironically, it is a son of Hull, the former England coach Steve McNamara, who has helped mastermind their own transformation in the interim.

Indeed, few can begrudge the passionate Perpignan club their moment in what will hopefully also be a seminal moment for not only the development of Super League but French rugby league, too.

The League Leaders’ Shield winners will play the victors of tomorrow’s other semi-final between champions St Helens and Leeds Rhinos in Manchester on Saturday week.

Catalans eventually ran out comfortable winners against opponents who, as with their 19-0 play-off win at Warrington Wolves, were missing a raft of first-team players.

However, the East Yorkshire club were given a pre-match boost not only because top try-scorer Ryan Hall returned just three weeks after suffering what was feared to be a season-ending biceps injury but also because Catalans star Sam Tomkins did not make the cut.

Hull KR's Brad Takairangi in action against Catalans Dragons (PASCAL RODRIGUEZ)

The England full-back, shortlisted for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel and so integral to the Dragons cause, failed a fitness test on his knee although he is adamant he will be OK for Old Trafford.

If anyone thought Tomkins’ absence could tip the tie in KR’s favour, they were proved sadly wrong but the visitors - who have done remarkably having finished bottom last term - will rue their errors.

They only trailed 12-4 at the break but - having gone behind to Ben Garcia’s ninth minute try - will be maddened by the manner in which they frittered away possession and chances.

Smith knew they had to be clinical to have any chance of success in Perpignan but their handling was too often clunky and misplaced while there were myriad ill-conceived offloads.

Hull KR's Will Maher goes on the charge. (PASCAL RODRIGUEZ)

That said, they did break the Catalans line a number of times but on each occasion it ended with nothing.

Matty Storton broke down the middle but had no support before Jordan Abdull slipped Kane Linnett away down the left only for the Australian second-row to pass back infield to no one.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall found space on that left edge, too, courtesy of Hall but the captain spilled when trying to get a pass out as Mike McMeeken closed in.

Abdull fired a 40/20 which was more like a 50/10 only to see Will Dagger fling out a flimsy pass from dummy-half which gave away possession once more. It was infuriating.

Hull KR's Matty Storton breaks the Catalans Dragons defence. (PASCAL RODRIGUEZ)

Abdull’s towering kicks caused Arthur Morgue - Tomkins’ stand-in - all sorts of problems but Rovers still could not capitalise.

Instead, their former scrum-half Josh Drinkwater intercepted Abdull’s pass to scamper 80m and score Catalans’ second try in the 31st minte with James Maloney adding his second conversion.

Rovers did finally get things right when Abdull executed a perfect cut-out pass for Kenny-Dowall to get over five minutes later.

Smith’s side needed to score first after the interval but they suffered that significant blow when Morgue crossed within 53 seconds after Will Dagger failed to take Maloney’s high kick.

Thereafter, it was obvious they would turn the screw.

McMeeken’s offload saw Tom Davies sprint clear and, though KR covered, in the next play Fouad Yaha forced his way over in the opposite corner on the hour mark.

Hull KR's Jez Litten tries to evade Catalans. (PASCAL RODRIGUEZ)

Drinkwater’s grubber saw Joe Chan make sure and, though Hall responded with a 74th minute try, it was only a consolation, Maloney rounding things off with a late penalty and sparking jubilant scenes on a famous and memorable night for Les Dracs.