Former NRL luminaries Kevin Naiqama and Lachlan Coote have said the perfect farewell to St Helens, helping guide the Super League champions to a third consecutive crown with an exciting grand finale Catalans dragons.
Former Wests Tigers star Naiqama was the man of the game Saturday after he scored both of the Saints’ attempts in their gripping 12-10 win at Old Trafford.
Australian winger Coote, a cult figure in St Helens who, like Naiqama, will now leave the club, was a stone in defense and contributed two goals as he also turned it into a title hat-trick.
It was also a historic night for Kristian Woolf, the Australian coach of the Saints who has led them to the ‘threepeat’, the first time this feat has been accomplished since the Leeds Rhinos in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
“I am very proud, they are a special group,” Woolf told Sky Sports.
It was an emotional night for Fiji captain Naiqama, who is returning to Australia after three years in Britain.
He admitted that the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, having to witness the birth of his first child on FaceTime had been a key part of his decision to return home.
The 32-year-old made the difference in a tough grand final dogfight, hitting crucially in each half in front of 45,177 fans at the ‘Theater of Dreams.’
The Saints had to overcome adversity after the first big final in which winger Tom Makinson made a mistake, and the Catalans’ Mike McMeeken landed in the second half after an excellent kick from Australian Josh Drinkwater to help propel the team. French 10-6 ahead.
However, center Naiqama, who had scored a surprising solo effort in the 12th minute, clinched the victory with a decisive blow from the poacher, grabbing onto Jonny Lomax’s grubber in the 65th minute and capsizing at the same time he received. A blow to the head.
“I was in a lot of pain from having a knee in the back of my head, it’s a little swollen, but it will be fine,” Naiqama smiled.
Coote, who will join Hull KR in the Super League next season, started the conversion to complete the score.
Naiqama received the Harry Sunderland Trophy as a player of the match from a previous winner, Rob Burrow, who is battling a motor neuron disease.
“Thank you for everything you have done in the game. You are a true legend of the game, ”Naiqama told the former Leeds hero.
“I am so overwhelmed right now with emotion. I love this group, I love this city, I love this team. I’m so proud and still can’t believe we won it. “
However, for the hero of the Catalans from Australia, Jimmy Maloney, it was an anticlimactic end to his distinguished senior career.
The 35-year-old, who won and lost the NRL Grand Finals, scored three goals to become the oldest scorer in history in a Super League final, but he was left sighing: “It doesn’t matter how old you are, there are still losses in the grand finals. it hurts so much. “
His Perpignan-based team had dreamed of becoming the first French team to lift the biggest prize in the European rugby league and 1,000 Catalan fans had traveled, but were inevitably outnumbered by the Saints supporters.
Not even a message of support from soccer legend Eric Cantona could help the Dragons as Woolf’s team completed their league and Challenge Cup double following their victory at Wembley in July.