Catalans Dragons - Only a matter of time before Les Dracs lift Super League Grand Final trophy

THERE were audible gasps in the press room when Catalans Dragons captain Ben Garcia showed his broken hand to the inquisitive media after Saturday’s Super League Grand Final.

INJURY ISSUES: Catalans Dragons' Sam Tomkins (left) is tackled by St Helens' James Roby at Old Trafford Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA

Let’s just say it did not look like a hand should ever look.

The French loose forward was one of many walking wounded who carried on regardless during one of the most intense and physical Old Trafford finales since their inception in 1998.

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Catalans head coach Steve McNamara revealed Dragons back-row Matt Whitley had fractured his own hand in the first minute but played on while he had fully expected Man of Steel Sam Tomkins to not even survive the warm-up due to his ongoing knee injury which had undergone secret treatment in England during the week.

Tomkins, of course, did take to the field and managed the full 80 minutes, almost guiding Catalans to glory on their first visit to the Theatre of Dreams. Almost.

In the end, like so many before them, Les Dracs fell just short against a peerless St Helens team who achieved their own history with a third successive title.

McNamara conceded: “We came into our maiden Grand Final and played one of the greatest – they’ve won three on the bounce, you have to say that.

“It certainly wasn’t an easy task. But it was a really hard game of rugby league. A tough game. We went toe-to-toe and you have to give the opposition credit. They have been consistent for so long now and they managed to get it done. Again.

PAIN BARRIER: Catalans Dragons' Ben Garcia during the Betfred Super League Grand Final against St Helens at Old Trafford Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

“I thought we were tremendous in so many areas.

“We’re hugely disappointed as we’ve just lost a Grand Final by two points but we’ve no regrets. We left everything out there. Everything. It’s two tries to one and we’ve just ended up on the wrong side.

“I couldn’t have asked for more and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved this season.”

The Yorkshireman is right to be thanks to a maiden League Leaders’ Shield for the Perpignan club and a first Grand Final. He is adamant more will follow.

“This isn’t the last step for the Dragons; it’s the next step and we’ve got to keep making steps,” said McNamara.

“What it has done has opened up a brand new market and exposed a whole new scenario with Catalans and French rugby league. There’s TV cameras here from Barcelona, from Paris, all the national papers in France.

“I think it has opened everyone else’s eyes to what can be achieved if we give teams the opportunity.

“We’ve been given the chance and it’s been a huge step forward.

“But it’s sickening at the minute, I’ll be honest. The amount that has been invested with what our owner has paid to keep us going with travel and everything else.

“It is a real kick in the teeth that we didn’t get it done. We’ll be back. Don’t worry about that.

“We’re 16 years old as a Super League club. That’s all.”

There had been doubts about Tomkins involvement ever since he missed the semi-final against Hull KR due to a knee injury sustained in their final round game against Wigan Warriors.

Everyone expected he would eventually feature at Old Trafford but few knew how close the 32-year-old came to missing out.

“It was a grade two medial injury,” explained McNamara.

“He was in a lot of pain. He flew to England – without you all knowing – to get some treatment and then came back to France.

“He played with pain-killing injections on top of that which was a danger because that injection could have shut his leg down. We weren’t sure.

“We had some incredible advice from some specialists about how to go about it and how to do it to get him on the field.

“But even in the warm-up I was expecting the physios to come and say he couldn’t play. We prepared for that. We were ready for all the scenarios. He did a tremendous job to get on the field and play to that standard.”

There were some “big calls” that went against his side, not least the decision not to punish Sione Mata’utia in any way for punching James Maloney in the fifth minute when often it would be a red card. McNamara also thought Fouad Yaha should have been awarded a penalty try.

For now, though, Catalans must wait until that next time. On this evidence, you sense it won’t be long.