Steve McNamara's confidence in Catalans Dragons justified with Wembley wonder
Catalans, who defeated Warrington Wolves 20-14 at Wembley, lost seven of their opening eight Super League games, but a mid-season run of eight wins and a draw from nine matches secured top-flight survival with a game in hand.
Either side of the semi-final they lost their final Super League fixture and first two in the Super-8s, with coach Steve McNamara making no secret of the fact the Cup had become their sole focus.
With that goal achieved, Catalans will spend much of this week celebrating before returning to England for Saturday’s game at Wheldon Road.
McNamara joked: “I’m not sure what we’re going to do, we might have to call off the last five league games I think.
“I am not sure how I am going to get these boys ready to go again – we might not get out of Perpignan after this.”
McNamara, a former Bradford Bulls and England coach who also played for Hull and Huddersfield, insisted: “I knew before the season started it would be a difficult start for us.
“I didn’t expect it to be as difficult, but the players implemented change in everything they did, on the field and off it. It has started to pay dividends for them.
“They have put in some unbelievable performances in the second half of the season to secure Super League status and now we’ve won the Cup which is great credit and testament to the players. I wasn’t sure whether we’d win the Challenge Cup this year, but I was confident we’d start playing well and we’ll continue to grow as a club as well.
“That’s what we need to do, keep developing and improving in certain aspects so we can challenge for the Grand Final as well as the Challenge Cup.”
Warrington are fourth in Super League, but their semi-final aspirations are under pressure from in-form Huddersfield Giants.
Coach Steve Price, who admitted Catalans were the better team, stressed: “It is going to be a really good challenge.
“We have got to get our heads up and get back on the horse because we’ve got Hull FC on Thursday night.”