2021 Grand Final stats breakdown
What a final. Toughness, grit and determination personified. There were some huge efforts from bruised bodies during a brutal encounter at Old Trafford.
The two best teams in Betfred Super League this season certainly lived up to the billing on Saturday Evening. Defence reigned supreme with just three tries scored all night – two of those coming from the boot.
The winning moment 🎉
Congratulations, @Saints1890 🔥#SuperLeague #GrandFinal pic.twitter.com/GpAH8SZiOe
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) October 9, 2021
Dragons captain Ben Garcia led by example for his side, making 48 tackles during a 70-minute stint. Remarkably, Garcia broke his hand during the game but still managed to finish the contest - a true warrior.
Garcia’s opposition skipper James Roby wasn’t too far behind – he made 43 tackles and played the full 80 minutes in the middle of the park. A gigantic effort from the 35-year-old.
Young half-back Lewis Dodd was put through his paces in defence on Saturday – up against the powerful Mike McMeeken, Dodd made an impressive 33 tackles. The Dragons certainly tested the youngster and he stood up brilliantly.
Across the game, St Helens made 358 tackles compared to Catalans 337. Saints finishing with an impressive 91.3 percent tackle efficiency - the Dragons just behind with 89.9 percent.
St Helens’ trojan defence should come as no surprise – they leaked the fewest points in 2021 and are renowned for their hard-nosed, impenetrable defensive efforts. Alongside their superior tackle count, their defensive mobility also restricted the Dragons momentum going forward.
Kristian Woolf’s side kept the Dragons’ metres gained to just 27 metres on average per set. In comparison, St Helens made an average of 40 metres per set. Saints' dominance both carrying the ball and in defence personified by those impressive numbers.
The Dragons had their fair share of the ball, however. Steve McNamara’s side edged the possession over 80 minutes with 51 percent – and spent just over a minute longer with ball in hand. They did, however, spend more time with the ball in their own half.
Despite their superior possession, Catalans managed to spend 10 minutes and 24 seconds in St Helens' half, compared to Saints’ 10 minutes 56 seconds in the Dragons half. A marginal difference to some, but important, nevertheless.
Catalans were tidy in attack and completed high, particularly in the first half – they completed at 86 percent in the opening 40 minutes compared St Helens’ 75 percent. The experience of James Maloney in particular ensuring Catalans remained in the contest despite a St Helens ambush in the first half.
Saints certainly dominated in field position - especially in the opening 40 - and looked the more likely to penetrate the Dragons line. They finally found success through Man of the Match Naiqama after hammering Catalans left edge defence.
Completion rates evened out in the second half - Catalans completing at 79 percent and Saints 78 percent – and it showed. The game opened up during the second stanza and both sides threw more caution to the wind in their bids to earn Grand Final immortality.
It was around the ruck and in the middle third where Saints seemed to dominate. No player in the Catalans forward pack – either starting or from the bench – managed to make over 100 metres on Saturday. In fact, only two players in their team reached that feat. Unsurprisingly, Super League’s top metre maker Tom Davies (115) was one of them, along with the industrious Samisoni Langi (131).
For Saints, Alex Walmsley (126) was as reliable as ever. Back rower Sione Mata’utia (120) also broke the 100-metre mark, along with winger Tommy Makinson (131) – despite spending 10 minutes on the sidelines. Makinson the first player to receive a yellow card in a Super League Grand Final.
And lastly, Kevin Naiqama, who earned the Harry Sunderland award on his final appearance for St Helens. Naiqama made 147 metres from 17 carries – along with 53 post contact metres - 2 line breaks, 7 tackle busts and a match-winning brace of tries.
He did it all in just 68 minutes after leaving the field with a head knock sustained in the process of scoring his second, decisive try. A worthy winner of the prestigious Man of the Match award and a fitting way to end his hugely impressive St Helens & Super League career.