Super League: St Helens 18-7 Catalans Dragons
|St Helens (6) 18|
|Tries: Vea, Turner, Savelio, Makinson Goals: Makinson|
|Catalans Dragons (7) 7|
|Tries: Pelissier Goals: Bosc Drops: Bosc|
Champions St Helens made a winning start to their Super League title defence in a bruising, fiery home victory against Catalans Dragons.
It also marked a successful start to coach Keiron Cunningham's tenure, having replaced the departed Nathan Brown for the 2015 campaign.
Saints trailed 7-6 at the break as Eloi Pelissier's try and a Thomas Bosc drop-goal cancelled out Atelea Vea's score.
But Jordan Turner, Andre Savelio and Tommy Makinson got second-half tries.
The home side had thrashed Catalans on this ground in the play-off semi-finals last season but found a much fresher Dragons harder to beat, despite early setbacks for the visitors.
|Mixed night for the debutants|
|While Willie Tonga's evening on the pitch ended after just 12 seconds for Catalans, Saints' new players enjoyed more profitable nights at Langtree Park. Atelea Vea scored, while Travis Burns showed composure and creativity to set up that opening try.|
High-profile import Willie Tonga was knocked out inside 12 seconds and, with Todd Carney injured before the match, the Dragons could have been forgiven for feeling hard done by when Zeb Taia had a try ruled out.
Vea polished off a slick left-to-right move at the other end for Saints but Catalans did claw ahead when Pelissier sneaked over from close in after Greg Richards was sent to the sin-bin on the back of a string of penalties, and Bosc landed a late drop goal.
However, Saints showed their champion spirit in the second period with Turner's try which owed much to Jonny Lomax's well-timed pass, and then survived a ruled-out Pelissier score shortly after.
Adam Swift had a second try disallowed by the referee, after a similarly ruled-out score in the first period.
Catalans' Michael Oldfield was sin-binned after he denied Lomax a certain score, but Savelio crossed, and another sliding move got Makinson in for his first of the campaign as tempers flared late on.
Tonga was fit enough to take his place in the stands during the second half but will be assessed before Catalans' home game against Castleford next weekend.
St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham:
"I admire the resilience and effort in everything we did defensively. We hung in there and made 30 tackles in a row at one point.
"We went up field and ought to have scored but our skill was a little bit off. We looked a little bit nervous. When we got into our rhythm, we looked undefendable."
Catalans coach Laurent Frayssinous:
"We are competitors and we had a really good dig against the champions so there are a lot of positives.
"It was pretty bizarre. At one stage we had a nine and a lock in the halves. There was a lot of stop start but sometimes you have to play the game the way it is."
St Helens: Lomax; Makinson, Turner, Percival, Swift; Burns, Wilkin; Amor, Roby, Walmsley, Greenwood, Vea, Jones.
Replacements: Masoe, Hohaia, Richards, Savelio.
Sin Bin: Richards (37).
Catalans Dragons: Escare; Duport, Tonga, Pomeroy, Oldfield; Bosc, Henderson; Casty, Pelissier, Lima, Taia, Whitehead, Anderson.
Replacements: Garcia, Mounis, Elima, Bousquet.
Sin Bin: Oldfield (57).
Referee: Phil Bentham (RFL).