SAINTS’ hat-trick of Grand Finals was a product of another 80 minutes of hard graft – but it took some extra special moments of both collective endeavour and individual brilliance to secure a 12-10 victory against the League Leaders Catalans at a cauldron-like Old Trafford.

Nobody expected a game between 1 v 2 to be a cakewalk, it was so, so tense – particularly heading into the last quarter of an hour when favourites Saints trailed 10-6 in a game of relatively few clear-cut opportunities.

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But Kristian Woolf’s men, now masters of the big match pressure cooker, did what champion teams do.

They held their nerve. There was no wobble or panic; no players deviating from the script just as it was about to appear that the clock was going to become as challenging an opponent as the Dragons.

As the minutes ticked away and the tension showed on the faces of the large Saints following on the Stretford End, that opportunity came courtesy of a late shot from James Maloney on Lachlan Coote, two players saying farewell to their respective clubs, but only one of allowed to pen the dream ending.

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Saints played the whole set perfectly, even down to the fifth tackle carry by Alex Walmsley which was shades of the Chris Joynt drive to the line ahead of the 2002 winner.

With the ball now in the Dragons 20, the Saints brains-trust took over for the killer last tackle play with James Roby and Lewis Dodd shifting it for Jonny Lomax to dribble an angled kick for Kevin Naiqama to chase.

It was executed to perfection with the Fijian test skipper collecting and grounding, despite copping a knee to the head that rendered this second score his last act for the Saints. But what a way to sign off.

There was still business to do – not least the pressure kick with the wind swirling and the cacophony of noise coming from the Dragons fans – of both the Catalonian and day pass variety.

Lachlan Coote, who joined at the same time as Naiqama, slotted the ball between the aitches to nudge Saints ahead and deliver us from any drop-goal drama.

Job done. Not one bit, but we were about to witness just why this is a three-time champion team.

And at this very point the 18th man, hollering 'Come on you Saints' with as much volume as nerves would allow, stepped up.

Dragons, who had found the Saints’ defensively line to be pretty impenetrable all night, took to the air.

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The tactic had already paid dividends in the 50th minute when Josh Drinkwater’s kick right had been tapped back for Mike McMeeken to score – but again they chose a similar route.

Halves Drinkwater and Maloney tormented Saints with their kicks chipped into the in-goal, forcing two goal-line drop outs and leaving them with three consecutive sets to defend on their line.

They shall not pass, was a vow they adopted, with Jack Welsby – on in the centre for Naiqama twice coming up with telling tackles. The second of those was sufficient to force the error and the siege – if not yet the game – was over.

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It was period that epitomised the Saints brotherhood that the players talk about – each of them willing to go that extra mile to cover their teammate’s back.

The closing stages – no doubt with Magic lodged in the psyche – were again frantic, but a super Coote kick, played into touch by Tom Davies ensured that Saints had the ball and field position for most of the closing minutes.

Nevertheless, there was still incident, and a couple of big calls, with Makinson pinged for obstruction to hand Dragons one last go only for Tomkins to get done for not playing the ball correctly.

Saints saw the closing minutes home, with the Dragons dangermen kept well at bay and to ensure the word threepeat could be coined to grate on the minds of English grammar purists up and down the country.

It had been a tight game, one which Saints started brightly with Naiqama’s footwork giving an early indication that he was on his A game.

That was just the hors d’oeuvres – with Saints targeting that side with Tommy Makinson released up the flank before stopped short.

It was a tough old match too, not short of niggle with Sione Mata’utia having a dig at Maloney after the kick.

The Saints packman showed plenty of punch and aggression in his carries and defence, may have subsequently copped a one-match ban, but he has added that degree of doggedness and an abrasive edge that champion teams

Against the run of play Catalans took an 8th minute lead through a Maloney penalty, but Saints hit the front on 13 minutes when Naiqama was unleashed on the right.

Taking on the line, swerving inside three white shirts and then outside two more before reaching out to ground the ball.

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Saints stretched the lead with a Coote penalty after Ben Garcia had gone high on Lomax, but that was cancelled out by another Maloney goal.

The second half was even more tense and it took a Makinson try-saver on Fouad Yaha on 46 to stop the wing from scoring.

Makinson was yellow-carded for the high tackle but there was no penalty try but while Dragons had a numerical advantage they hit the front with a McMeeken score.

Saints, though, stuck to their guns – and were rewarded with the spoils of a ninth Super League.

After being denounced as big-game bottlers for a spell, this history-making Saints crop have certainly got the hang of this now and who would back against them taking the run to four.

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Catalans Dragons: S Tomkins; Davies, Langi, Whare, Yaha; Maloney, Drinkwater; Dudson, McIlorum, Bousquet, Whitley, McMeeken, Garcia.

Interchanges: Mourgue, Goudemand, Tomkins, Kasiano.

Tries: McMeeken (50)

Goals: Maloney (3)

Saints: Coote; Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace; Lomax, Dodd; Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles.

Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Amor, Paasi, Welsby.

Tries: Naiqama (13, 66)

Goals: Coote (2)

Sin Bin: Makinson (46)

Attendance: 45,177