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Naiqama stars as St Helens win third straight title

Kevin Naiqama reminded NRL clubs of his talents after bowing out of Super League with two tries and the Harry Sunderland Medal as St Helens triumphed 12-10 over Catalans in the grand final at Old Trafford.

Naiqama collected his third Super League premiership as St Helens completed an historic three-peat and he later gave an emotional speech after accepting the man-of-the-match award from inspirational halfback great Rob Burrow, who has motor neurone disease.

Burrow played in the Leeds teams of 2007, 2008 and 2009 who had been the the only sides of the Super League era to win three consecutive grand finals.

"Thank you so much mate, for everything you've done for the game. You are a legend," Naiqama told Burrow.

The Fiji captain and former Wests Tigers centre is returning to Australia for family reasons and said at the post-match press conference that he was likely to retire but "wouldn't say no straight away" if an NRL club called him.

"If that call came I wouldn't put the phone down and would explore that but it will probably be my last game," Naiqama said.

"I think it's retirement. If I was going to play I'd have loved to stay but outside circumstances with my wife and my family has led to this decision to go back home. You couldn't write a better fairytale.

"It was a difficult decision because I've loved my time here. They've provided a great support network for me and my wife, I'm definitely going to miss this team, the coaches and fans. I've really enjoyed my stay here and I think they've done more for me that I've done for them."

Former Penrith and North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote, who will join Hull KR next season, sealed the win for the Kristian Woolf-coached Saints outfit when he converted Naiqama's 65th-minute try.

James Maloney, who had won NRL premierships with Sydney Roosters and Cronulla, fell short of another grand final triumph in his last match for Catalans.

"I know it hurts. I lost my first ever Grand Final and I still remember how bad that felt," said Maloney, who will play in the domestic French competition.

"I'm shattered for the boys. We've worked so hard and put in so much. I thought we could have set ourselves up to get the job done tonight but they were just too good.

"You never play the perfect game of footy. That's the bad thing about losing, you'll always look at it like 'what if this' or 'what if that'?"

Naiqama scored the only try of the first half but two penalty goals from Maloney kept Catalans in touch at 6-4 at the interval.

Mike McMeeken out Catalans ahead 10-6 when he scored after half time Naiqama ended his Super League career with the winning try after pouncing on a Johnny Lomax grubber.

St Helens' Sione Mata'utia and Catalans' James Maloney in the Super League Grand Final.
St Helens' Sione Mata'utia and Catalans' James Maloney in the Super League Grand Final. ©Ed Sykes/

St Helens winger Tommy Makinson was sinbinned for a high shot on Sam Tomkins and there was controversy after former Newcastle Knights utility Sione Mata'utia appeared to punch Maloney during the opening exchanges, but the incident went unpunished.

Catalans had been forced to play most of their matches in England due to COVID travel issues but managed to finish the season as minor premiers.

However, the French club fell short in their bid for a first Super League title 15 years after joining the competition.

"We've got no regrets," Catalans coach, Steve McNamara, said. "But we'll be back. This isn't the last step, this is the next step. We've opened up a whole new market for French rugby league. The door is open now and we've got to keep it open."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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