Catalans Dragons 10 Leeds Rhinos 20: Liam Sutcliffe hat-trick leads Rhinos into semi-finals
and live on Freeview channel 276
An epic performance showed how far Leeds have come under coach Rohan Smith.
It was packed with determination, spirit and no lack of skill and Catalans couldn’t handle them.
There were some outstanding individual contributions - from the likes of loose-forward Cameron Smith, both half-backs, Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, James Bentley and Zak Hardaker, as well as hat-trick hero Liam Sutcliffe - but it was a terrific team display in tough circumstances.
Leeds had no right to win this, on their fourth trip to France inside two months, But they were by far the better team and thoroughly deserved their semi-final place.
Egged on by a loud and angry crowd, Catalans played with no composure and it was a tough game for James Child to referee.
The game was very nearly out of control at times, but Catalans’ discipline was appalling and they could have had more than three yellow and one red card.
Leeds managed to keep their heads, but there were disgraceful scenes at the end as the referee and both touch judges were pelted with beer and other objects as they left the field.
That is something the RFL will have to take action over. The sending-off that was always likely finally came with five minutes left when Gil Dudson, on the last, swiped at Sezer and then led with his head.
The penalty count finished nine-eight to Leeds after being four-three in Leeds’ favour at the interval.
Rhinos created the first chance with a lovely piece of rugby, Austin and Bentley linking to put Richie Myler into some space. He kicked ahead for Hardaker, who took the ball, but lost it following Fouad Yaha’s tackle.
It was an impressive opening from Leeds with Austin, Sutcliffe, Bentley, Mikolaj Oledzki and Myler all prominent and they stuck at it after a major setback.
Rhinos looked to have got the reward they deserved after 12 when Sezer stepped and stretched over, but the referee - Child, rather than Sam Tomkins - said no try.
Though it appeared his ball-carrying arm didn’t hit the deck, video assistant Ben Thaler eventually, after an interminable delay, agreed, and the hosts escaped with a penalty for a double-movement.
There were sporadic bouts of handbags breaking out all over the place in the early stages and eventually, early in the second quarter, Mitchell Pearce, Catalans’ stand-off, became the first player in the sin-bin following a set-to in back play.
Rhinos hardly had the ball during his 10 minutes off the field. Catalans wound down the clock by taking the two from a pair of penalties, both awarded for offside and converted by Tomkins.
Pearce was on the point of returning when Sutcliffe broke into open space, played a one-two with Myler and zipped over for a try which Hardaker improved to give Leeds the advantage.
They would probably have settled for that, but didn’t. A minute before the interval Sezer kicked across field and the ball came loose for Sutcliffe to touch down again.
This time Child said try and Thaler gave the green light, Hardaker’s second goal giving Leeds a fully-deserved eight-point advantage.
Credit to rookie winger Liam Tindall, called up in place of the injured Ash Handley, who began the set by returning a kick from behind Leeds’ line.
Catalans had only one serious try-scoring opportunity in the first period, but Smith made a superb last-ditch tackle to keep Paul Seguier out.
Leeds made exactly the sort of start they didn’t want to the second half. In the opening set Smith was penalised for a high shot on Sam Kasiano, about the only thing he did wrong all night and on the last tackle Pearce kicked to the right, Dean Whare made the catch and Tomkins added the extras.
On the hour Catalans went back down to 12. Michael McIlorum and Bentley had a running battle all game, the Dragons hooker caught the Leeds man high and was sin-binned, despite captain Benjamin Garcia’s furious complaints.
On the final tackle from the penalty, Sezer kicked to the left and Sutcliffe made a superb catch to complete his hat-trick. Hardaker landed his third goal to make it 18-10 with 16 minutes left.
After Dudson’s exit, Pearce was sin-binned again following a high tackle on Sezer and Hardaker took the two to seal a wonderful win.
Leeds were reduced to 16 available players with less than half an hour played after their young player of the year nominee Morgan Gannon was flattened trying to tackle a full-speed Kasiano. He went off for a head injury assessment and didn’t return.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins, Davies, Langi, Whare, Yaha, Pearce, May, Seguier, McIlorum, Napa, J Chan, McMeeken, Garcia. Subs Mourgue, Dudson, Goudemand, Kasiano.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler, Briscoe, Hardaker, Sutcliffe, Tindall, Austin, Sezer, Oledzki, O’Connor, Prior, Bentley, Gannon, Smith. Subs Leeming, Tetevano, Walters, Donaldson.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).