Catalans Dragons’ Sam Tomkins still the man for the magic moment to continue his season of ‘lasts’

SPEAK to Sam Tomkins at any point over the past year and the common refrain is that he is embracing this as a season of ‘lasts’.

His last time playing against this team, or at that ground. His last Magic Weekend. His last Challenge Cup shot.

Rather than ignore the fact, and treat each like the proverbial ‘just another game’, he has welcomed the pressure and perhaps invited the joy that this brings.

This could have been the ‘last’ to end all ‘lasts’, the final match of a wonderful career for one of the most talented players that Super League has seen.

That Tomkins should single-handedly decide this game was not ‘written in the stars’. Do away with notions that it ‘had to be him’, and any other clichés. In fact, perhaps you could have written the script. Because by his full-blooded determination alone, it happened.

He could have done it with a single field-goal, of course. One, two, three times Catalans tried to set him up, but each time St Helens’ defence came rushing in too quickly.

By the third time he knew what was coming, and knew what he needed to do. Instead of another goal attempt, he stepped off what he called post-match his “good leg”, saw a gap open up in front of him, and seized the opportunity.

Tomkins has never been a man to sit idly by and let things happen around him. If there’s an argument to be had, he’s the first one in there. If there’s a referee to influence, he won’t leave their ear. And if there’s a match to be won, you can bet he’ll be the one trying hardest to win it.

You don’t become the world’s most expensive player, and twice win the Man of Steel award, without being capable of match-defining moments like this.

Moving to the warmer climes of the south of France has only sharpened his hunger, and signing for the Dragons has given him a new purpose. In contrast to Tomkins, this is a club still very young, and still hunting ‘firsts’.

Months before he joined in late 2018, they won their first Challenge Cup. With their star fullback to the fore, they won their first League Leaders’ Shield and reached their first Grand Final in 2021.

And now, in what will conclusively be Tomkins’ last game, he could lead Catalans to their first Super League title.

Of course, it would be a fitting Old Trafford farewell, but only if Tomkins makes it so. James Roby will know all too well that fairy-tale endings don’t just happen.

Because in the other corner of this bruising heavyweight battle at the Brutus, the Saints skipper faced up to the same fate as Tomkins, his career on the line.

Like Tomkins, it wasn’t about him. Both are devotees to their cause; in Roby’s case it’s been the same one for his extraordinary, one-club career.

He bows out after 551 St Helens appearances, six Grand Final wins, four Challenge Cups, and two World Club Challenge triumphs which came 16 years apart.

The legendary pair provided a wonderful sub-plot to this semi-final, but comparisons are unfair. While Tomkins provides the magic, Roby’s career was built on being a model of endurance and consistency. Rarely was a tackle missed, or a pass thrown astray.

The fireworks could be left to other players, and so it was on this day. Roby made not a single carry in this game, and was taken off for the last time shortly after half-time.

That left the stage clear for Tomkins to do what he has done so many times before, coming up with the sensational clutch play that claimed the victory.

Tomkins just hopes this isn’t his last – one more awaits at Old Trafford.