Chris Kendall had ulterior motive when making big decisions says Phil Clarke

As St Helens’ title reign which saw them claim Grand Final wins over Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and Salford Red Devils came to an end against Catalans Dragons on Friday night, Chris Kendall earnt a lot of credit.

This is because he let the game breath for the most part blowing almost no penalties or six agains in the first half.

He even received huge praise from Paul Cooke on social media. But this raised the question, why are games officiated in a different way in the play offs compared to the regular season?

Phil Clarke raised this point and even suggested Kendall was officiating the game in this way to tyr and secure a place at Old Trafford.

He said on Sky Sports: “It shouldn’t be a competition between the referees to give as few penalties as possible so that they get the whistle for the Grand Final, because that’s what its seemed like to me so far.”

This came after Kendall didn’t sin bin Sione Mata’utia.

Either way he managed the game well especially the atmosphere.

The play-off atmosphere was evident from the get go, as was the physicality, with both LMS and Taukeiaho starting showing the intent for a physical start. Neither side truly threatened in the early stages with a Matt Whitley knock-on on halfway ending the most exciting attack.

Micky McIlorum made a mistake to provide Saints with territory and were it not for a brilliant defensive read by centre Ikuvalu then Bennison would have been in, the closest chance in a nervy opening 15 minutes.

The home side looked to have scored first in the corner when Tom Johnstone capitalised on a Jonny Lomax error, however Chris Kendall’s no try call wasn’t overturned by Jack Smith – seemingly for a shove from Johnstone on Lomax, albeit a harsh one.

The nerves were on show as Tom Johnstone knocked on from a simple pick up of the ball within his 20 metres however Saints couldn’t capitalise with Alex Walmsley dropping a carry on the resulting set.

Catalans took the lead just ahead of the half hour mark following a Sione Mata’utia high shot on Sam Tomkins. The Dragons opted for two with Keighran kicking over from 30 yards out to make it 2-0, the score remaining the same till the half time whistle.

Jack Welsby was at his very best once again, dragging the defenders wide to the left hand flank before playing a clever pass to allow centre Will Hopoate to dance through on the 50 minute mark to make it 6-2 to the reigning champions.

When a Moses Mbye high tackle offered the home side a penalty in front of the sticks from 30 metres then Adam Keighran opted to take the two, bringing the game back to 6-4, with the Dragons receiving the ball once again from the restart.

A Mitchell Pearce kick was knocked on by Jack Welsby and Matty Lees was then penalised for lying on at the play the ball, seeing yellow for the professional foul. That saw Saints drop to 12 with Lees in the sin bin and Adam Keighran score his third penalty of the game, making the game six points a piece with less than ten minutes to go.

After a flurry of penalties and a blocked drop goal from Tomkins it was finally the moment of magic that the game had been waiting for. Saints raced off the line to block the kick and Tomkins wound back the clock to dodge the chase and dart through under the sticks after a brilliant step. A supreme try!