Fouad Yaha crossed four times as Catalans Dragons secured their place in Super League for 2019 with a dominant 44-10 win over Salford at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.
The bulky winger opened the scoring early on when he was on hand to finish off Brayden Williame’s surge down the touchline, before the Dragons struck from deep again a short time later, as Josh Drinkwater was the beneficiary of a wonderful Mickael Simon offload and Samisoni Langi short ball to cross.
Ian Watson’s side struck back as a sweeping move from right to left found Derrell Olpherts to score his second try for the club, but Jason Baiteri crashed onto a short pass close to the line to reopen the two-try buffer, despite the best efforts of four defenders.
Yaha turned provider next, claiming a high bomb on the last before laying it inside to Kenny Edwards, who barged past Ed Chamberlain to score, before the 21-year old winger grabbed his second of the game acrobatically in the corner.
Edwards repaid the favour to his winger with some quick hands shortly after the restart to secure Yaha’s hat-trick, before a set move from the back of a scrum saw Tony Gigot’s cutout ball find Yaha to slide in four his fourth.
Josh Wood added a consolation for the visitors, scampering over after Josh Jones’ offload, but Edwards dived onto Drinkwater’s kick into the in-goal to ensure that the Dragons ran out comfortable winners and secured Super League safety in the process.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
How high can the Dragons go?
If you would’ve said two months into the season that the Catalans Dragons would’ve made it into the top eight, many people would surely have laughed off the suggestion.
However, that has proved to be the case and full credit must go to Steve McNamara, who has made some shrewd acquisitions in the transfer market- namely Josh Drinkwater and Kenny Edwards- as well as getting the best out of the likes of David Mead, now moved to centre, and Samisoni Langi after an indifferent start to the campaign.
Given the run that the French side have been on recently, who’s to say that they can’t go further and book a place in the end of season play-offs? Given the fierce competition this season, you would bet against it happening, but the Dragons can only tick off the wins and hope that other results help their cause.
Salford game plan dismantled early on
Salford head coach Ian Watson obviously went to Perpignan hoping to win the battle of the ruck and avoid giving cheap tries and field position away.
In reality, the Red Devils made far too many first-half errors and the home side were able to cruelly capitalise on them, striking from deep for both of their opening two tries.
Salford looked overrun and physically dominated at the Stade Gilbert Brutus, which isn’t unexpected given that the Dragons’ physicality has helped them on many occasions this year. In the grand scheme of things, this result won’t matter for them too much, given what is at stake over the coming weeks.
Man Of The Match- Fouad Yaha
There is no one else you can give this award to other than the Dragons’ four-try hero. Yaha showed everyone exactly why he has been attracting interest from elsewhere, showcasing his speed and rather-unexpected agility, given the size of the man.
He may not be a conventional winger, but the 21-year old certainly offers something different for Steve McNamara. His and Lewis Tierney’s performances are keeping Jodie Broughton out of the team, and their performances over recent weeks have fully merited their inclusion.
Catalans Dragons 44
Tries: Yaha 4, Drinkwater, Baitieri, Edwards 2
Goals: Drinkwater 6
Drop Goals: n/a
Salford Red Devils 10
Tries: Olpherts, Wood
Drop Goals: n/a
Catalans: Gigot, Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha, Langi, Drinkwater, Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Casty.
Replacements: Anderson, Bousquet, Baitieri, Edwards.
Salford: Chamberlain, Olpherts, Sa’u, Jones, Bibby, Lui, Shorrocks, Tasi, Wood, Mossop, Lannon, Nakubuwai, Murray.
Replacements: Evalds, McCarthy, Nzoungou, Burke.