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Saints expecting hostile reception

2nd of August 2013
Saints expecting hostile reception

St Helens are bracing themselves for the Catalan Dragons "dungeon" as they bid to follow up their stunning defeat of Wigan Warriors.

St Helens are bracing themselves for the Catalan Dragons "dungeon" as they bid to follow up their stunning defeat of Wigan Warriors with a late-season charge.

Saints still have work to do to secure a place in Super League's top-eight play-offs in what has proved an inconsistent campaign.

But after a home defeat to Hull KR in June prompted public criticism from their chairman, Saints have responded positively.

Admittedly, they only played twice in July because of their prior elimination from the Challenge Cup, but they saw off Castleford Tigers and then claimed a morale-boosting win over arch-rivals Wigan.

That has put them in good spirits for this weekend's trip to Perpignan to face a Catalan side who need to rediscover form to assert their own play-off credentials.

Saints youngster Josh Jones expects a tough battle at the Stade Gilbert Brutus, where the steep inclines of the stands help make for a raucous atmosphere.

The 20-year-old centre or second row said: "The last few games they have lost but you never write them off, especially in France.

"It's like a dungeon down there, the fans are really passionate and the players are always up for it. It is going to be a really tough game.

"It is a massive week for us as a club and as a team but we are really up for it.

"We have looked good in training, everyone is really confident. "The mood is so much better than it was. That game against Wigan was massive, it showed how much belief we have as a team.

"We can't lose focus now, at the back end of the year. Everyone is counting on us to do a job. That is what we have got to do, keep focused."

A victory in France would take Saints above the Dragons, who were fifth heading into the latest round of fixtures.

With Leeds having emerged from fifth place to take the title in the Grand Final in each of the past two years, there is plenty of reason for Saints optimism if they can find consistency.

Jones said: "As long as we can take it week by week, and continue to win, we will really be in there with a shot. We want to finish as high as we can but regardless of whether it's fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, we will give it our best shot at the end of the year.

"That will be a great time for us. I think everyone is excited to see what is going to go on towards the end of the year. I think we shocked a lot of people with the way we performed against Wigan."

Saints have been hampered by injuries throughout the campaign and their chief weapon James Roby remains on the sidelines with an ankle complaint.

But the enforced breaks on cup weekends have kept the squad fresh and coach Nathan Brown shares Jones' confidence.

He said: "After Wigan it may have been good to play but some blokes definitely needed a spell (of rest). It definitely helps your side freshen up, there is no doubt about that.

"Hopefully we can take the good parts of the Wigan game, and that good feeling after the game, and use it for the next game."

They will come up against a Dragons side depleted by injury and suspension.

Scott Dureau, Brent Webb, Olivier Elima, Louis Anderson and Jason Baitieri are not fit while Julian Bousquet and captain Remi Casty are banned.

Brown said: "They are not going as well as they were earlier in the year but they have had some misfortune too. They have had a number of close losses."

Saints' goalkicking half-back Gareth O'Brien, on loan from Warrington Wolves, is fit after a heavy knock against Wigan while utility man Lance Hohaia could also return.

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