Retiring playmaker James Maloney has taken the Catalans Dragons to within one win of the Super League title after a 28-10 victory over Hull KR in Perpignan.
The former NRL star, who hangs up his boots this season, ensured Catalans became the first overseas team to reach Super League’s grand final with another dominant performance on Thursday.
A sold-out Stade Gilbert Brutus saw Les Dracs beat the Robins for the fourth time this season, a match too far for Tony Smith’s depleted troops.
Catalans captain Ben Garcia opened the scoring when he won the fight for a high ball with visiting full-back Will Dagger in the ninth minute which Maloney converted to make it 6-0.
A period of stalemate then ensued between the sides who had already fought out three tight encounters this season, but when giant substitute Sam Kasiano entered the fray the Dragons went into overdrive.
First, winger Fouad Yaha was pulled back for a forward pass after he crossed the line on the left before Josh Drinkwater collected an interception and ran 80 metres to score in the 31st minute. Maloney made it 12-0 with a simple conversion.
Kasiano’s destructive force up the middle of the pitch was taking its toll but it was the brute force of another substitute forward, Rovers’ Albert Vete, that led to the next score.
Vete wreaked some havoc of his own and after a couple of powerful bursts, ex-NRL centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall went over with Jordan Abdull missing the conversion.
At 12-4, Catalans still had work to do in the second half but a high kick from Maloney was fumbled that allowed Arthur Mourgue to go over to make it 16-4.
A series of penalties to Rovers had French fans howling but the return to the pitch of captain Garcia put Catalans back on the front foot.
A blistering break by Mike McMeeken and Tom Davies on the right was switched to the left for winger Yaha to strike in the corner in the 61st minute.
Joel Tomkins was pulled back by the video referee for a knock-on over the line but when Drinkwater stroked a grubber over the chalk, substitute Joe Chan was quick to pounce for the Dragons’ fifth try.
Maloney added the conversion to leave Catalans within touching distance of victory, leading 26-4 with 11 minutes left to play.
Rovers struck back with a try from winger Ryan Hall in the 74th minute which was converted from the touchline by Abdull.
But a penalty goal two minutes from the end by Maloney finished the game at 28-10, leaving French supporters dreaming of an historic day at Old Trafford.