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Result: St Helens overcome Catalans Dragons on return to action

Result: St Helens overcome Catalans Dragons on return to action
© Reuters
The reigning champions ran out 34-6 winners at Headingley.

Super League champions St Helens eased their way back into the season with a resounding 34-6 win over a disappointing Catalans Dragons in the opening game of a behind-closed-doors double header at Headingley.

The match, postponed in February due to Saints' involvement in the World Club Challenge, marked the resumption of the campaign after a near five-month lay-off caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Kristian Woolf's men did their best to restore a touch of normality.

Bereft of both spectators and scrums, the game marked the arrival of a new set of regulations highlighted by the "six again" rule copied from the NRL, and St Helens proved themselves more adept to change.

Saints, who suffered a surprise defeat to Castleford in the last match before lockdown, had England veteran James Graham back in their side, 17 years since he made his debut, and it was as if he had never been away.

His powerful runs and strong defence helped offset the loss of regular forwards Matty Lees and Dom Peyroux, who missed out through illness and injury respectively, and lay a platform for an impressive first-half display.

The Dragons, who gave a debut to former Wigan winger Tom Davies, were the first Super League club to resume training yet they looked disjointed for most of the game and trailed 28-0 before James Maloney scored their only points.

Lachlan Coote scored St Helen's first try (
Lachlan Coote scored St Helen's first try (Martin Rickett/PA)

After five months of lockdown, their performance will be deeply disappointing for coach Steve McNamara, whose side face four more trips to England before they can look forward to playing a home game.

It was the Lachlan Coote show for the first half-hour as Saints' Scotland full-back opened the scoring with a 13th-minute penalty, took Zeb Taia's instinctive inside flicked pass to score the first try and slid a kick to the corner on the last tackle for second rower James Bentley to touch down.

Back rower Taia then added a third try, courtesy of a neat short pass from stand-off Jonny Lomax, and Coote's third goal made it 16-0, a half-time score that reflected the champions' dominance.

The match between St Helens and Catalans Dragons was the first of a double-header at Headingley
The match between St Helens and Catalans Dragons was the first of a double-header at Headingley (Martin Rickett/PA)

Dual-code international Israel Folau, who raised eyebrows at the kick-off when he opted not to take the knee as the rest of the players acknowledged the Black Lives Matter cause, came nearest to scoring for the Dragons as he was tackled inches short of the line just before half-time.

Any hope of a fightback by the French club was dashed within five minutes of the re-start when Lomax supported a break by front rower Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and put Coote over for his second try.

Coote kicked his third goal to extend the lead to 22-0 and the suspect Catalans defence was exposed once more after 52 minutes when England winger Tom Makinson left a trail of destruction on a mazy run to the line for a solo try.

Maloney slipped through a rare chink in the Saints defence for a Catalans try on the hour and he added the conversion but their defence once more resembled the cardboard cut-outs in the stands as prop Alex Walmsley went on a rampaging run to score the champions sixth try, Coote taking his goal tally to five from seven attempts.

While it was mission accomplished for Saints, the only consolation for the Catalans is that there were no fans to jeer their abject performance.

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Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara pictured in June 2019
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States24282173
Olympics flagRussian Olympic Committee13211852
Great BritainGreat Britain13171343
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events

· Team GB starlet Sky Brown - aged just 13 - takes part in the women's park event and has a realistic chance of picking up a medal too. Bombette Martin is Britain's other representative, while hosts Japan are among the favourites for gold (1am)

· Great Britain's women have more history in their sights heading into their semi-final against Netherlands - the team they beat in the 2016 gold medal match (2.30am)

· The men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday will go down as one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, and the women will attempt to emulate that, with new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin of USA and Netherlands' Femke Bol the favourites for gold (3.30am)
· Nick Miller is Britain's representative in the men's hammer throw final (12.15pm)
· The men's 800m final could be a wide-open affair (1.05pm)
· A thrilling men's 200m final is in store as the likes of Andre de Grasse, Noah Lyles and 17-year-old sensation Erriyon Knighton bid to succeed Usain Bolt as Olympic champion (1.55pm)

· After a medal-laden day on the water on Tuesday, Great Britain will be looking for more success, starting with Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men's 470-class medal race (6.33am)
· Team GB also have medal hopes in the women's event, with defending champion Hannah Mills looking to retain her crown alongside new teammate Eilidh McIntyre (7.33am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Great Britain's Frazer Clarke faces Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov in the men's super heavyweight with a place in the gold medal bout up for grabs (7.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also guaranteed a medal, but will look to ensure that is either gold or silver as he takes on Cuba's Arlen Lopez in the light heavyweight final (7.35am)

· World records have been tumbling in the velodrome, and another could go in the men's team pursuit final as Italy - new world record holders themselves - face Denmark (10.06am)

· Three Brits have made into into the final of the men's jumping individual final, including fastest qualifier Ben Maher, who will bid to inherit compatriot Nick Skelton's Olympic crown (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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