|Round 18 Results|
|Hull KR 35 Huddersfield 28|
|Leeds 42 Castleford 24|
|Widnes 32 Wigan 33|
|London 10 Warrington 82|
|Catalans 30 Hull FC 4|
|St. Helens 30 Bradford 18|
|Salford 10 Wakefield 46|
|Leeds 38 Widnes 28|
|Round 19 Fixtures|
|Friday 21st June - 8pm (TV)|
|Castleford v Hull FC|
|Friday 21st June - 8pm|
|Salford v St. Helens|
|Saturday 22nd June - 5pm|
|Catalans v Hull KR|
|Sunday 23rd June - 3pm|
|Bradford v Widnes|
|Sunday 23rd June - 3pm|
|Huddersfield v Leeds|
|Sunday 23rd June - 3.30pm|
|Wakefield v London|
|Monday 24th June - 7.45pm (TV)|
|Warrington v Wigan|
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|Day of the Match - A Catalans (Proper Version)|
|This account tracks our family experiences as experienced by my wife, two teenage daughters and their trusty chauffeur; the reader will find a paucity of expletives and references to French beer. Having endured the worst snowfall to hit my second hometown of Mazamet, 30 miles north of Carcassonne, our spirits were lifted as the day of the match arrived. Following a cosy lie-in we wolfed a leisurely breakfast of cereals and croissants. The younger nipper was then dispatched to the Boulanger to acquire trois baguettes for our half-time snack of cheese and tomato French butties.|
The journey from Mazamet to Perpignan started with the aged Picasso winding its way over La Montagne Noir to Carcassonne and an easy power run to the windy city of Perpignan. At one point there is a stunning vista with the snow capped mountains of the Pyrenees to the right and the murky Mediterranean a gauche. Our insane Sat Nav was programmed to take us directly to the Gilbert Brutus stadium where tickets could be bought and the chariot parked for a sharp getaway for the two hours return journey.
At 1500 we were able to secure tickets for our party which contained three concessions; mother and daughter at 10 Euros and the nipper at 3 Euros. A full family for 40 Euros – tres acceptable! Incidentally, I didn’t witness any equal opportunities demonstrations for the females to pay the same amount as myself. Immediately we rounded the corner to the splendid ‘Au Bon Coin’ hotel whereupon an excellent late lunch and was consumed at very reasonable prices. I even enjoyed the mustard mayonnaise on my chips! At the bar my back was tested by a Ricard fuelled Catalans supporter who was keen to ascertain my mode of transport that day. One hour later we were on the numero 2 bus to the centre ville.
The No.2 bus
Again at 2 Euros for the aller retour billets were well within the Bitter family budget.
I have to confess that our city stroll failed to excite the clan. The once glorious Perpignan Railway Station with all its associations with Salvador Dali has suffered badly at the hands of the modernisers. The narrow alleys revealed a sprinkling of Saints fashionwear including Lord and Lady Service awaiting their executive transfer to the Stadium. The castle exposed the solitary figure of St Bert awaiting the tired troops of the Funbus. The enterprising publican had included Saints players and officials and the visiting press in his ‘One of 300 Perpignan 2010’ badge sales pitch.
On our return to the ‘Au Bon Coin’ Hotel we were greeted by a far more raucous and vibrant ambience. The Gerard Songsters had spent the afternoon at a wine-tasting event. I can only conclude that un peu vin was spat out. The pre-match songs were harmonised with volume, venom and a certain sway.
The Au Bon Coin Hotel
Still at The Au Bon Coin Hotel
After enduring the mass scrimmage at the entrance to the ground we moved to our sideline seats. We were joined by a splinter group of revellers sporting heritage jerseys, berets and false moustaches. Their main focus throughout the proceedings seemed to be the acquisition of Catalans scarves from young boys.
The massed ranks of away supporters
Oh yes, there were the matters on the field. I was concerned prior to the match of the opposition’s strength in the Mogg inside pass, the Greenshields link and the attacking prowess of their two centres. It was no great surprise that all their points originated with these forces. In no time at all stomachs were feeling slightly bilious as Sa out-jumped Meli and Wheeler to touch down. Then a super weaving run by Greenshields included Saints two mis-tackles was finished on their left flank by Walker. Saints trailed by eight points and some relief came as a result of two missed conversions.
As tide and territory changed Saints started to find their attacking flair; a lovely cross-field chip by Wello found Lomax who collected and touched down unopposed. Further concerns arose however when a mis-timed shoulder charge left James Graham staggering like a straggler from the Songster’s wine-tasting event; no more Mr Graham in the Perpignan twilight. Eastmond, kicking into a strong, cool breeze failed with the conversion. The pressure continued and a probing series of side-steps resulted in the head of Lomax impacting the elbow and upper arm of Elima. Steve Ganson did not hesitate with the red card. The home crowd’s booing ensued for the rest of the contest. Lomax then rubbed his smelling salts into the wounds of the Dragons with a marvellous in and out to finish a neat passing movement. Kyle notched an improbable conversion from the touchline and Saints were flowing in one way attacking traffic. Leon was instrumental in most of the Saints attacking moves through a conscious decision to distribute the ball wider and in a slightly deeper attacking line. This resulted in Gidley seeing much more of the ball and his power, passing and probing deserved most supporters’ nominations as the stand out player on the day. Before half time Pryce had kicked to the left wing where Francis collected a high ball and scored the try. It seems to me that Meli has continued his focused approach on the field from last season and looks dangerous whenever he is served with the pill. The final try of the first half resulted from another left to right lateral attack with Gids stepping and powering his way across the tryline. With the score 18 points to 8 at half time the Bitters warmed up with a walk to the packed Catalans shop to view their wares.
One of five conversions from Arnold
With a following wind, depleted opposition and renewed confidence in attack the second half lived up to our expectations. Early on in the stanza a Roby probe was continued close to the line by Maurie who powered and grinned his way over the line. The try of the match again came as a result of a wide Pryce inside dummy and pass to Gidley who stepped his way to the 20 metre line and found Kyle with a reverse pass. Esatmond snaked his way through the retreating Catalans defence to score near the posts. Meli completed his brace as neat passing through the hands of Wilkin and Wheeler resulted in a try close to the left hand touchline. It was left to Gidley to round off Saints’ eighth try of the night with lovely steps and a powerful finish across the whitewash. All the second half tries were converted by Kyle. The quantum of solace for the home team came at the death as an admirable passing movement ended with Walker netting his second try. Unfortunately for the Dragons their kicking boots were well and truly ensconced in kitbag of Thomas Bosc. Final score 42 points to 12 for the team in blue with a white and red vee.
There were many creditable performances on the day with Gidley leading the way. Meli always looked dangerous and was unlucky not to score a hat trick when a rampant Fas failed to deliver the money ball close to the line. Leon passed beautifully with great vision and he looked the pivot that we need to get us back to our top attacking game. The pack wrapped up the Catalans six and defended really well. Robes looked really sharp and Wello positioned himself superbly, as ever.
Allors, a rare comfortable victory was achieved in the South of France. On reflection on the way to the car I was left hoping that things would turn round quickly for the Dragons, especially in time for the visits of Wigan, Wire and Leeds. The atmosphere at the Gilbert Brutus stadium is significantly better than many grounds; their supporters a strange mixture of passion and gentility. Their franchise is well established and if we don’t win the Challenge Cup this year then I hope the cup heads well south.
There was no time for after match celebrations as we headed back on a two hours dark drive over the mountains to chez nous. Even a two hours flight delay on the Sunday proved to be a minor irritation for the Bitters. Talking of bitters it was great to be heading back to the land of real ale at less than 2 Euros a pint.
I envisage that our momentum will continue against Wakefield next Friday night. Last season’s five tries, no goals home loss has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Come on Saints let’s post quarante on le chats!
Posted by Arthur Bitter
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Friday 21st June 2013, 8pm
at City of Salford Stadium
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