Amid the raucous celebrations which followed St Helens’ third straight Super League title came anguish, anger and indignation.
While Saints emulated Leeds Rhinos by clinching a glorious ‘three-peat’, being cast as party-pooping ‘villains’ rankled with some of them.
Catalans Dragons’ dramatic rise — they finished top for the first time this season before reaching their maiden Grand Final — has breathed much-needed passion and romance into British rugby league.
St Helens were crowned Super League kings for the third successive season at Old Trafford
But St Helens forward Morgan Knowles could not hide his frustration at how he felt the magnitude of his team’s achievements had been overlooked.
Saints’ hat-trick of Super League titles and Challenge Cup success this season have marked them out as one of the greatest club sides of the modern era.
Kevin Naiqama scored the first try on his final appearance for St Helens in the Grand Final
Centre Naiqama ended his Saints career on a high with the winning try in the second-half
Yet Knowles complained: ‘We deserve more credit. We get portrayed as the villains and that was definitely motivation for us.
‘Unless you were a Saints fan, everyone wanted to see Catalans win. In British culture, we like to see people fail and the underdog win.
‘But it’s about time we got the credit we deserve.’
Saturday’s title decider, a bruising encounter settled by Kevin Naiqama’s double, saw Saints equal Leeds’ record of eight Grand Final wins.
Naiqama, 32, has won the Super League title in each of his three seasons with Saints but will now head back to Australia. He broke down in tears after being presented with the trophy
St Helens forward Morgan Knowles (middle) could not hide his frustration at how he felt the magnitude of his team’s achievements had been overlooked
Fiji centre Naiqama, 32, has won the Super League title in each of his three seasons with Saints but will now head back to Australia. He broke down in tears after being presented with the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match.
He said: ‘I can’t speak highly enough of the club and what they have done for me. They have given me so much joy.’
Catalans captain Benjamin Garcia vowed: ‘I’m proud of what we’ve done this season and we’ll be back.’