Catalans Dragons 32 Leeds Rhinos 28: Rhinos wait for first win continues
Defending champions Leeds Rhinos remain without a point this season after a 32-28 defeat by Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.
It was Leeds’ fourth straight loss this season and their third in First Utility Super League and leaves them at the foot of the table.
Leeds staged a spirited fightback after going 24-8 down early in the second half, but a series of errors, missed opportunities and defensive lapses proved costly.
They also conceded crucial penalties, the prime example being when Anthony Mullally committed a shoulder charge in front of the posts just after Rhinos had got within a converted score going into the final 10 minutes.
Catalans scored two tries to one in the first half to lead 12-8 at the break, but it was five tries each at the finish.
There was an element of farce about Catalans’ first score, after only three minutes, Dave Taylor rumbling over from Todd Carney’s pass.
Referee Ben Thaler asked Thierry Alibert to check for a possible knock-on and the video assistant awarded the try, after looking at the wrong incident.
Pat Richards converted, but Leeds were level early in the second quarter.
Liam Sutcliffe grubber-kicked to the in-goal, full-back Tony Gigot picked up, lost the ball in Ash Handley’s tackle and Kallum Watkins touched the ball down.
Alibet backed up Thaler’s decision to award the try and Jordan Lilley landed an outstanding touchline conversion.
Big Willie Mason made his Catalans debut off the bench, but it was another player making his first appearance who created their second try, six minutes before half-time.
Jodie Broughton, a Leeds academy product signed from Huddersfield Giants in the off-season kicked smartly infield to send Richie Myler over and Richards added the two.
Myler grounded the ball in-goal to deny Josh Walters, but Leeds but the gap when Lilley landed an angled penalty – awarded against Krisnan Inu for offside - after the hooter had sounded.
Leeds conceded, for the second successive game, within a minute of the resumption, Inu racing through the defence for a try which Richards improved.
Then Carney and Glenn Stewart linked to send Gigot over and the goal made it 24-8.
Rhinos responded superbly when Watkins’ round-the-man pass found Mitch Achurch and he blasted up the right flank before sending the supporting Sutcliffe over.
Lilley’s third conversion cut the gap to 10 points and then Ryan Hall finished off quick hands by Rob Burrow, Zak Hardaker, Brett Ferres and Joel Moon.
The young half-back again converted and Leeds could have been in front had Hall been able to find Burrow in support.
Leeds were looking the better team at that stage, but a penalty against Moon for interference was punished when Taylor evaded Keith Galloway and held off Achurch from close range.
Richards maintained his 100 per cent record with the boot to re-open a 10-point lead.
Again Leeds hit back, Handley scoring his first try of the season from an excellent kick by Sutcliffe, but Lilley could not add the two from the touchline.
Richards gave the hosts breathing space with his penalty and though, in the final moments, Watkins scored his second try, from long-range off Burrow’s pass, Leeds ran out of time.