Kristian Woolf, the St Helens coach, has a chat with Sky Sports: “It’s a great opportunity for us obviously … I’ve said it before but I think we’ve played our best footie at the back end of the year … we played really well last week … it’s about 80 minutes now.
“It’s about getting it done, and we’ve done it before … it’s a special group of men with a special bond amongst them. They work really hard and they deserve everything they get. We understand most people would rather see Catalans win. We’ve got our own motives … to come away with a win. We’ve just go to enjoy the game, enjoy the occasion … if we stay relaxed, we stay focused, we’re going to give ourselves a real chance.”
A pre-match word from Aaron Bower, our reporter on the scene this evening:
It is far from your ordinary Old Trafford atmosphere with kick-off approaching. To the left of the press box, there is the usual rowdiness from the thousands of St Helens supporters in the Stratford End. But to the right, it feels much more subdued as the Catalans players warm up. You suspect the Dragons’ ability to adjust to the occasion in the early stages will be key to them standing a chance of completing the job and writing the final chapter of the most incredible rugby league script.
The Catalans Dragons coach, Steve McNamara, is asked about Sam Tomkins’ fitness (Tomkins hasn’t trained for three weeks): “I think he’s tested, he’s fit to go … he doesn’t need to train, he’s trained with this team for years and they know him inside out … it [rest] was the best way to get his knee ready for this game, and he plays.
“It [the Grand Final] means a lot … rather than getting lost in all of that it’s about playing well tonight … we’ve stayed humble all season … let’s get the game out the way and hopefully we can talk about it afterwards.
“Defence wins grand finals … because the games are so close … I see this as another step in the right direction [for the club].”
Sam Tomkins of Catalans Dragons, who was a fitness doubt for tonight’s match but is in condition to play, had a chat with Sky Sports earlier: “The training this week and the mood in the camp has been really good … We know we need to be at our very best to beat St Helens, and that’s what we’ve got to do today.”
Aaron Bower’s match preview, including those quotes from each side’s coach insisting their is no pressure on their players, is here:
Sky Sports just spoke to Rob Burrow and his family: Burrow is at Old Trafford today to present the man of the match award.
“I’ve got some fantastic memories of this stadium but I think this will be one of the best,” he says.
You can read Donald McRae’s interview with Burrow, from back in August, here:
In one of Sky Sports’ pundits chairs, Martin Offiah remembers a rather amusing piece of feedback from a coach following a final one year (he doesn’t say which one):
“Apart from those five tries, you didn’t really do much else.”
Catalans Dragons: S. Tomkins, Davies, Whare, Langi, Yaha, Maloney, Drinkwater, Bousquet, McIlorum, Dudson, Whitley, McMeeken, Garcia. Replacements: Mourgue, Goudemand, J. Tomkins, Kasiano.
St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles. Replacements: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Pa’asi, Welsby.
Referee: Liam Moore (RFL)
In 2018, Catalans Dragons became the first non-British team to lift the Challenge Cup. This year, they won the Super League Leaders’ Shield by topping the table for the first time. Today, they can make yet more history by becoming the first foreign team to win a Super League Grand Final.
Just one problem: St Helens, who have won the previous two Grand Finals and are aiming to become just the second team to complete three consecutive final victories, are this evening’s opponents at Old Trafford. Any end-of-season final brings a certain amount of nervous tension, but which of these teams will be feeling more nervous tension at what is at stake?
“There is no pressure on us … Saints are clearly the favourites,” the Catalans coach Steve McNamara said this week. “There is no pressure on the group whatsoever this year because of what the group has achieved over the last two years,” insisted McNamara’s St Helens counterpart, Kristian Woolf.
No pressure, then? But plenty to play for. Kick-off is at 6pm, and there’s pre-match reading and team news coming right up.