Catalans Dragons: a new dawn or a false one?

Folau Catalans

A false dawn is an art no club wants to master but one Catalans Dragons most certainly have.

Season after season they are built up. Season after season they have let people down.

Big-name signings and star-studded squads have underachieved. Bursts of brilliance have been nullified by catastrophic collapses.

Even last year, off the back of the greatest moment in the club’s history when they clinched the Challenge Cup trophy in 2018, the same frailties were exposed in all too familiar, all too drastic fashion.

Last year Catalans conceded 40 points on eight different occasions. They were nilled twice and they ended the year with the third-worst attack in the competition.

Away from home soil they continued to struggle with just five wins.

It reinforced the club’s soft underbelly, a criticism launched at the Dragons for years. Dire performances against Leeds, Hull and Salford displayed their lack of fight and resilience.

It was very much same old, same old.

Heading into 2020, the same hype emerged. The acquisitions of James Maloney and Israel Folau signalled two more world class additions, but only of similar ilk to previous Dragons who have tried and failed to push the club into the upper echelons of the competition.

And when they were handed a beating on the opening round against Huddersfield, it appeared to reinforce all of those problems still persisted.

However, and whisper it quietly for now, things appear to have changed.

Seven rounds into their campaign and they sit two points behind the leaders with a game in hand.

Results have been superb but delve deeper and there is a marked improvement on a number of KPIs.

While their defence still remains questionable; they’ve conceded an average of 20 points per game over seven rounds, their record of 216 points in seven matches, an average of almost 31 per game, is unrivalled. They boast the best attack in the league despite playing a game less than most.

More promisingly they’ve won three of their four Super League games in the UK. Victories over Hull FC, Castleford and Wakefield have seen them almost match their win record away from home soil last year.

But it’s when you assess how they’ve won some of those games that the big positives emerge.

Their victory over Hull FC in March saw them produce the biggest comeback in the club’s history, coming from 28-10 down to win and against Castleford they were 14-0 behind but still won, and eventually won easy.

This team renowned for caving in, notorious for throwing in the towel, appears to have grown a spine.

The Dragons have always been good front-runners but their ability to win twice from hefty deficits, away from home no less, is a very noticeable change of tack.

The challenge now is consistency. Catalans knocking off a couple of big wins isn’t new, though scoring 98 unanswered points in 132 minutes most probably is. Yet, even despite their recent excellence, there will still be many unconvinced this is nothing but another case of Catalans threatening to deliver only to drop the parcel.

But with the Dragons’ belly developing a layer of hard skin and their attack at their best ever levels, maybe, just maybe, the Dragons are clearing their nostrils and getting ready to breathe some fire.