McNamara celebrates and prepares

Catalans Dragons may have finished top of the Super League table, but they are facing TWO play-off semi-finals according to coach Steve McNamara.

After the fireworks and frenzy had faded following an historic Super League-leaders trophy parade at Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday night, the Dragons’ coach set his sights firmly on his next objectives.

Catalans travel to Wigan Warriors on Friday for their final game of the regular season and then have time to prepare for their play-off semi-final in Perpignan on September 30th.

McNamara told League Express: “I view the game at Wigan as the first semi-final for us, it is that standard of game. Wigan want to win next week to finish in the top four and it is the perfect opportunity for us to play a first semi-final.

“We’ll be going there as strong as we possibly can, ready to get ourselves in prime condition for that second semi-final.”

Catalans, missing several senior players, raced to an 18-0 lead early against Huddersfield on Saturday but couldn’t control a second-half Giants’ comeback, which resulted in an 18-30 defeat for the league leaders.

“I thought we tried really hard, got off to a great start but it was clear that we didn’t have our strongest team out there tonight,” said McNamara.

“We had a lot of players out, and some players who hadn’t played for some time because of injuries.

“We’re happy with the effort and disappointed with the result, but I won’t be too critical tonight.”

McNamara described his team’s table-topping triumph as “historic” and he paid tribute to his colleagues for their “incredible efforts” in earning the League Leaders’ Shield.

He added, “We should not underestimate our achievements.

“To finish top of the competition and show the level of consistency that is needed is a massive stride forward for the club and tremendous for everybody involved with Catalans Dragons, our supporters, players, staff and directors.

“And more than that it is tremendous for French Rugby League and the town of Perpignan.

“In our short history we have created great stories and there are more stories to come.

“We have different circumstances to all of the other teams, with the travel situation and the expense that the club has gone to just to keep us in the competition, and this is a little bit of payback for a lot of people right throughout our organisation.”

The Dragons coach believes the first-ever non-UK side winning the league leadership is a boost for the entire sport, adding: “It’s a new name up there, it’s great publicity.

“When you get a non-English team winning the League Leaders’ Shield it creates headlines, so we’re very happy and we will celebrate and acknowledge our achievement.

“But at the same time we have to prepare for our next challenge. We deserved to finish top of the competition but we’ve got to go again and we will do.

“By finishing first we have earned the right to plot our path to the semi-final. Tonight, clearly, our team selection has enabled us to be in a better position next week.”

Catalans have sold-out all tickets for their semi-final, although an allocation of 200 tickets remains available for the visiting team, which will return on general sale if they are not taken up.

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.