London (AFP) - St Helens enjoyed a resounding 34-6 win over Catalans Dragons on Sunday as Super League returned from the coronavirus shutdown while Australian star Israel Folau opted not to take a knee in the latest anti-racism protest.
The match, postponed in February due to Saints' involvement in the World Club Challenge, marked the resumption of the campaign after a five-month lay-off caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
With no spectators and scrums, the game marked the arrival of a new set of regulations highlighted by the "six again" rule copied from the NRL -- a set of six more tackles for ruck infringements.
Dual-code international Folau raised eyebrows at the kick-off in Leeds when he opted not to take the knee as the rest of the players showed their support for the Black Lives Matter cause.
The controversial Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in May 2019 over a homophobic social media post.
However, he made his return to the 13-a-side code in February this year with the Dragons after a decade playing Australian rules football and union.
Taking a knee at sports events has become increasingly common in recent weeks.
However, a number of Formula One drivers have opted to stand instead in pre-race protests.
Champions St Helens, who suffered a surprise defeat to Castleford in the last match before lockdown, had England veteran James Graham back in their side on Sunday, 17 years since he made his debut.
His powerful runs and strong defence helped offset the loss of regular forwards Matty Lees and Dom Peyroux, who missed out through illness and injury.
The Dragons were the first Super League club to resume training but looked disjointed for most of the game and trailed 28-0 before James Maloney scored their only points.
After five months of lockdown, their performance will be deeply disappointing for coach Steve McNamara, whose side face four more trips to England before they can look forward to playing a home game.