Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara says it will be a “special occasion” when his side take on Hull KR at the Stade Gilbert Brutus in the first of the Betfred Super League playoff semi-finals on Thursday (Catalans 1/4, Hull KR 3/1, Tie 22/1 – Match Winner 80 Mins).
It has already been a remarkable season for Catalans (11/4 to win Grand Final), as they claimed the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time in their history after winning 19 of their 23 matches across the campaign.
A place in a first Grand Final is now within touching distance for the French club, who were eliminated in emphatic fashion by St Helens at the same stage of the playoffs last season.
That 48-2 defeat at the Totally Wicked Stadium will still be fresh in the memory for many in Perpignan, but McNamara is confident there will be no repeat on Thursday, as unlike 12 months ago, his side will have home advantage in their favour.
“It’s reward for everybody involved with the club. We’ve earned the right to be at home in this game,” McNamara told reporters. “Now, to get a game of this magnitude is great. It will be a special occasion, there’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere.”
The Dragons also look set to be boosted by the availability of newly crowned Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association player of the year Sam Tomkins, who has been named in McNamara’s 21-man squad despite an ongoing knee issue.
The full-back, who has also been nominated for the 2021 Steve Prescott Man of Steel, had been considered a major doubt after sustaining the injury in Catalans’ final match of the regular season against Wigan Warriors earlier this month, but he now looks set to feature on Thursday.
Catalans have won all three of their previous meetings with Hull KR this season, but only one of those victories was achieved by greater than a two-point margin (Catalans to win by 1-5 points 13/2).