Fourth placed Leeds Rhinos travelled to eighth placed Catalans Dragons without two of their main strike players as Hall and Watkins fulfilled their England duty down under. The Rhinos were looking to get back up to third, and with a big enough win to second, but the Dragons had their eyes on sixth place.
The Rhinos were victorious when the two sides met at Headingley back in March with a 46-10 win despite a close first half. Both sides suffered losses last week, for the Rhinos it ended a good winning streak, but for the Dragons last week was their second consecutive in a row.
Both sides were without a host of regular first teamers and playing a number of squad members out of position.
A couple of early stoppages for injuries, including the departure of Greg Bird with a head injury, interrupted the Dragons early flow. On the Rhinos first real attack, Liam Sutcliffe plucked a Danny McGuire cross field kick from the air to drop over the line for the games opener. Sutcliffe added the extras and Brian McDermott couldn’t have wished for a better start.
Louis Anderson levelled the scores when he took a Remi Casty pass to grab a superb solo try evading four Leeds tacklers in a twenty metre run to score by the left upright. Tony Gigot converted from in front of the uprights for 6-6.
Ashton Golding knocked-on with the try line begging on thirteen minutes and four minutes later Tony Gigot had a try ruled out for an obstruction on Jones-Buchanan. A great Fouad Yaha tackle denied McGuire a breakaway try after the Rhinos stand-off had gone seventy metres and it was all about the tries that weren’t, rather than the ones that were.
It was exciting end to end action.
There was a far too simple try for the Dragons on twenty-four when Lucas Albert found Julian Bousquet who walked in the try from ten metres. Gigot was accurate with the conversion and the Catalans were six ahead.
Five minutes from the interval Brayden Wiliame found a gap after taking a Bousquet short pass to score from ten metres out. Gigot failed to add the extras for 16-6, the Dragons seemingly in full control, mostly thanks to the boot of Richie Myler.
Just as it looked like the Dragons would take their decent lead into the interval Stevie Ward juggled the ball and muscled his way over the line from ten metres to ground. Sutcliffe kicked the touchline conversion and the sides went into the sheds at 16-12 in favour of the home side.
Two minutes into the second half and the Dragons looked to have extended their lead but the video referee ruled that Gigot had failed to ground the ball as Ashton Golding rolled him away from danger.
On fifty-two Richie Myler made a half break and then wrong footed Anthony Mullally before finding Remi Casty inside to canter under the sticks. Gigot added the goal for 22-12.
On sixty-six a banstorming Adam Cuthbertson thirty metre run saw the loose forward over off a McGuire pass after Sutcliffe had done all the work to wrestle free in the tackle. Sutcliffe added the conversion and again the margin was down to just four points.
Just over a minute had passed when the Rhinos drew level as Ash Handley and Joel Moon both went down the left side before Moon found Rob Burrow in support to dive over by the corner flag. The game was set up for an exciting last ten minutes.
McGuire conceded a penalty on his own line on seventy-two for not clearing the ruck and Gigot added the penalty to level the scores as 24-24.
On seventy-five the Rhinos got a second set on the Dragons line and two tackles into the set McGuire ran the angle to score from ten metres out. Sutcliffe added the conversion for 30-24 with just over three minutes remaining.
The Rhinos snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat, and the Dragons will be kicking themselves that they failed to get anything from a game which they controlled for long periods. The Rhinos seemed to manage the conditions the best, they never panicked and they put in a professional performance to take the crucial two points. It was a great bounce back after last weekends’ loss to the Giants and it will be a very happy side and their supporters making the long trip home.
The Dragons will be devastated as the bottom four looks like an increasingly likely possibility.