Catalans Dragons staged a second-half fightback to win at Headingley and continue their push for a place in the top eight of Super League.
Catalans opened the scoring inside two minutes after capitalising on a Leeds error in the first set of the game, with stand-off Samisoni Langi finding a way over for his first try of the season. Josh Drinkwater added the conversion to get the Dragons off to the perfect start.
Conceding early on seemed to wake Leeds up, though, as the home side scored three quick-fire tries to put themselves in the driving seat.
Jack Walker got his team on the board with a fantastic solo effort, before Liam Sutcliffe scored in the very next set following an Ash Handley break. Soon after, Cameron Smith broke a tackle and fooled the defence with a dummy, clearing the way for the forward to go over.
However, Leeds’ momentum was brought to a halt when another error gave Catalans possession inside the Rhinos’ half, and their defence couldn’t hold out as Drinkwater found a way over for a try. The ex-Leigh man missed the conversion so the gap remained at 8 points.
Leeds had the final say in the first half as Luke Briscoe, who was making his third debut for the Rhinos after re-joining on loan from Featherstone this week, marked the occasion with a try.
But, just as they did in the first half, Catalans got an early score in the second forty to give themselves hope. A high kick to the corner wasn’t dealt with which allowed winger Fouad Yaha to collect and touch down.
That was the boost the French side needed, and the points started to flow for them from that point. Lewis Tierney was put over to bring the Dragons back within touching distance, and then a Kenny Edwards try was converted by Drinkwater to level the scores after an hour.
Leeds offered no real attacking threat after the break, although they did think they may have won it when Sutcliffe knocked over a drop goal with just 5 minutes remaining.
The final twist in the tale came when Adam Cuthbertson knocked on from the restart, gifting the visitors with a golden opportunity to steal the points. A panicked Leeds defence couldn’t prevent Edwards from recording his second of the night as the Dragons sealed a second win over the Rhinos in just over three weeks.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Leeds’ top eight place in danger
A sixth straight loss in Super League leaves Leeds hanging onto their place in the top 8 by the skin of their teeth. Tonight’s opponents Catalans are now just one point behind them and eighth placed Huddersfield are also level on points with the 2017 champions.
With no win since the end of April and several key players out, it is hard to see how Brian McDermott’s side can turn it around in the five regular season games that remain.
Catalans get the job done
Despite a fast start, Catalans were poor in the first half and deserved to be down by 14-points at the break.
However, they came out a determined side in the second half and fought back well to eventually get the win. Results are all that matter for the Dragons at this stage as they look to sneak into a Super 8’s position.
Man Of The Match- Kenny Edwards (Catalans Dragons)
Edwards started the game from the bench but came on to make a huge impact for his side.
Leeds struggled to cope with his strong running and he was a big reason behind Catalans dominating much of the second half.
Ultimately, his two tries in the final 15 minutes decided the game and have given the Dragons a very good chance of avoiding a relegation battle in the Qualifiers.
Leeds Rhinos 25
Tries: Walker, Sutcliffe, Smith, L. Briscoe.
Goals: Sutcliffe 4.
Drop Goals: Sutcliffe.
Catalans Dragons 28
Tries: Langi, Drinkwater, Yaha, Tierney, Edwards 2.
Goals: Drinkwater 2.
Drop Goals: n/a
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, T. Briscoe, Newman, Handley. L. Briscoe, Moon, Sutcliffe, Oledzki, Parcell, Garbutt, Ferres, Smith, Cuthbertson.
Replacements: Dwyer, Walters, Mullally, Holroyd.
Catalans Dragons: Gigot, Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha, Langi, Drinkwater, Casty, McIlorum, Simon, Jullien, Garcia, Bird.
Replacements: Anderson, Bousquet, Baitieri, Edwards.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.