A YEAR ago today, Tour de France fever was sweeping Leeds.
With less than a week until the much-anticipated cycle race’s Grand Depart, Leeds Rhinos faced French visitors Catalan Dragons at Headingley Carnegie.
Rhinos wore a special yellow kit – honouring the Tour leader’s jersey – to mark the start of the build-up to arguably the greatest event in the city’s sporting history.
Catalan had been due to turn out in red and white spotted shirts, similar to the one worn by the Tour’s King of the Mountains, but that plan was scrapped for copyright reasons.
The game itself proved to be a thriller, with Rhinos getting out of jail – to maintain a 100 per cent home record against Catalan – with a winning goal after the hooter had sounded.
There were just 215 seconds left when full-back Morgan Escare kicked a drop goal to edge Dragons a single point ahead.
Leeds tried a short re-start, which did not go 10 metres. It would have been a penalty to the visitors and game over, but – incredibly – Jason Baitieri picked the ball up and instead the award went to Rhinos.
Had Kevin Sinfield – who was sidelined by a back injury – been playing, he may well have gone for goal from halfway.
Instead Leeds kicked to touch, but failed to get anywhere from the resulting set.
Catalan were back in possession left, but a mix-up between Zeb Taia and Ben Pomeroy handed another penalty to Leeds, for obstruction.
This time Liam Sutcliffe – then fourth-choice kicker, behind Sinfield, Zak Hardaker and Rob Burrow – opted to go for goal, having missed with three out of six previous attempts.
The hooter went before he stepped up and, as the 13,000 crowd held their breath, he struck the ball between the posts from midway inside Catalan territory and half-way between midfield and the touchline to seal an astonishing 32-31 victory.
Dragons felt robbed of what they believed would have been a deserved and much-needed two points.
Catalan were 20-14 ahead at half-time, following tries by Escare, Taia and Eloi Pelissier, plus the first four of five goals from Sam Williams.
Ryan Hall, Ben Jones-Bishop and Josh Walters crossed for Leeds before half-time and the second period was tense, Taia touching down before Joel Moon, Carl Ablett and Moon again went over from Leeds, only for Daryl Millard to respond with the game’s final touchdown.
Leeds Rhinos 32
(Tries: Moon 2, Hall, Jones-Bishop, Walters, Ablett. Goals: Sutcliffe 4),
Catalan Dragons 31
(Tries: Taia 2, Escare, Pelissier, Millard. Goals: Williams 5. Drop goal Escare).
Leeds Rhinos: Jones-Bishop, T Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Aiton, Peacock, Delaney, Ablett, Bailey. Subs Achurch, Walters, S Ward, L Briscoe.
Catalan Dragons: Escare, Oldfield, Pomeroy, Duport, Millard, Pryce, Williams, Elima, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Whitehead, Baitieri. Subs Garcia, Anderson, Pelissier, Mounis.
Referee: Robert Hicks