Catalans to overcome their jitters

Steve McNamara is hoping his Catalans Dragons side have played their worst forty minutes of 2021 before the Super League season has even begun.

The Dragons were dismantled in the first half of a pre-season match against Championship side Toulouse Olympique on Saturday, losing 10-24 at half-time, but recovered to win the game at Stade Gilbert Brutus by 40pts to 28.

It was the ultimate turnaround from a team with a reputation for inconsistency, a fact not lost on the Catalans coach.

“I thought we were very soft in the first half,” McNamara told League Express.

“Our tackling was pathetic in the opening 40 and that ran into our attack, so we ended up soft in both aspects of the game.

“We were awful on defence. You can talk about systems and structures, but our basic tackling, individually and with each other, was really poor.

“But we needed that to happen this week. Thank God it was this week and not in two weeks’ time against Hull KR.”

A first-half hat-trick from Olympique full-back Mark Kheirallah rocked the Dragons in their second (and final) pre-season game after beating a French Elite One side convincingly the previous week.

But, despite the first-half horrors, McNamara insists his side will be firing on all cylinders for round one of Super League against Rovers at Headingley on Saturday March 27th.

“We’ve got an intense period of training now before our first game against Hull KR, and we know exactly what is necessary,” said the coach.

“Tom Davies and Gil Dudson will rejoin the training squad this week, along with Dean Whare, and we have a clear programme to follow in the build-up to round one.

“It’s been a really short pre-season for us, we’ve only had two weeks so far as a team so while there is some frustration over our first half against Toulouse, we addressed it immediately.

“They throw lots of different challenges at you, they play completely differently to most teams. In fact, they play very similarly to what Hull KR did last year.

“Toulouse play in a certain style, which if you stand back off them, they will find you out. They are as good as any team in Super League at doing that. We stood off them in the first half, and with some sloppy discipline we allowed them to grow and all credit to them.

“I told the players at half-time that we were really soft and we were allowing Toulouse to dominate, and the real positive is that the group responded really well.

“It was a really good reminder of how to set ourselves up in a game. We got things the wrong way round against Toulouse but we addressed it and that’s what trial games are for, so all in all a good day in terms of the lessons learned.”

Catalans are still awaiting final confirmation of a potential new television contract to broadcast games live from Perpignan during the 2021 Super League season. It is understood that Canal+ Sport, beIN Sports and Eurosport are all in the running to provide coverage from Stade Gilbert Brutus, with a decision expected today on Monday.

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