THERE were more than a few funny looks at the Saints teamsheet - with eight of the club’s best players injured, rested or suspended for the visit of the only team to lower their colours so far this season.

And when Catalans opened up Saints right edge barely three minutes into the game, those fears did not look unjustified.

We should have had more faith.

What followed was not just a victory for those 17 players on the field - but the club culture, ethos and academy system.

It was win-win all round.

Plenty of focus looked at the contribution of the young guns who stepped up, but the starting point for praise has to start with big prop Alex Walmsley, skippering the side for the first time, and leading from the front.

He was at his absolute rampaging best, as he scattered the hapless Dragons defenders at will, so much so that the crowd were expecting him to turn green and start bursting out of his kit.

And when it was still game-on, old head Zeb Taia stepped up to the plate with some big charges and some strong tackles.

Once Saints got on top, they rattled them good style with the one to 17 effort contributing to the 50-14 victory.

There were particular stand-outs, with young centre Matty Costello grabbing a late hat-trick to put the icing on the cake of an emphatic victory.

Even more impressive were the displays of England Academy player Jack Welsby and young hooker Aaron Smith.

Welsby, who destroyed the Australian Schoolboys in the autumn, again showed the quality he has at his fingertips.

He repeatedly linked up well, piercing the line and selecting the right play to make light of the absence of crowd favourite Lachlan Coote.

And at nine Smith produced top drawer distribution from dummy half, tackled well and was rewarded for his dummy half running with a first half try that Harry Houdini - or James Roby himself - would have been proud of.

For years we have been waiting for a Roby understudy - now it looks like he is here.

Saints: Welsby; Swift, Naiqama, Costello, Grace; Fages, Richardson; Lees, Smith, Walmsley, Taia, Peyroux, Paulo. Subs: Amor, Bentley, Ashworth, Batchelor.

Catalans: Gigot; Mead, Langi, Williame, Tierney; Tomkins, Smith; Bousquet, Da Costa, Moa, Goudemand, Whitley, Casty, Subs: Edwards, Simon, Julien, Kasiano.