“Allez Allez Allez!” This is the Dragons’ fans’ chant from the Perpignan terraces – and they’ll be shouting it a lot more soon, as Catalans return to the Stade Gilbert Brutus more often after regular trips across the Channel in the first half of this year.
The leaders are unbeaten in Super League on these shores, impressing again last Friday with a fantastic second-half display to come from behind and win at Headingley.
Their pack looks formidable, both wingmen make vital contributions at both ends of the field, and their playmakers have an exciting balance of runs and passes. After years of talk around big name overseas signings, it’s a previously unknown Frenchman that continues to catch the eye – Arthur Mourgue causing mayhem whenever he ran with the ball, aided and abetted by the kicks and control of James Maloney.
Barrie compared the former St Esteve half-back to Rob Burrow – and I also believe the 22-year-old has similarities to Jonathan Davies’ early career in rugby league. He has the perfect build to zip away from players, with great balance and agility.
His low centre of gravity and natural power immediately bring to mind other great sportsmen, like Alex Murphy in our code, and perhaps footballers Gerd Muller or Sergio Aguero. He may only have got his chance due to Josh Drinkwater’s injury – but I hope Steve McNamara continues to find a way to get him on the field.
I’m not sure if Dragons owner Bernard Guasch can bankroll private jets to away games for ever – but it must be a major reason behind the improvement of their form in the UK. Where previously they might travel by bus from Perpignan to Barcelona the day before a game, fly to Stanstead, drive hours to a hotel, play the match and do the whole thing in reverse, the luxury of a bespoke return flight cannot be underestimated.
I’m also hoping the Dragons don’t relax now the sun has started to shine in the south of France – as they arguably have in previous years.
Last season’s COVID disruption meant they couldn’t play many matches on home soil – but here’s what happened in 2019:
June 15 v London – lost 12-30
June 22 v Hull FC – lost 10-50
August 17 v London – lost 4-17
August 31 v Hull KR – lost 6-24
In fairness, their only poor home performance in 2018 was a 6-35 August reverse to Wigan – but look at 2017:
June 10 v Huddersfield – lost 12-56
July 8 v Wigan – lost 10-32
July 22 v Castleford – lost 24-32
August 19 v Leigh – lost 6-30
September 23 v Widnes – lost 10-12
The Dragons have three home games before the end of July – against Leeds, Castleford and Wakefield. They then host Hull FC, Leigh and Huddersfield.
I really hope there’s no similar “summer slump” in 2021 – it would be great to see Catalans take their place in the Grand Final at Old Trafford, with the likes of Mourgue and Fouad Yaha lighting up rugby a treize across the Channel.
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