DEPLETED Featherstone Rovers emerged with great credit from tonight’s 26-12 defeat against Catalans Dragons at Stade Gilbert Brutus in the Super 8s Qualifiers.
The Championship side, who were trounced 58-10 at Widnes Vikings in the Qualifiers last month, more than matched Super League Catalans for long periods but were edged out after recovering from 18-6 down to be only six points behind at half-time.
Rovers defended superbly to concede just one second-half try, scored by Sam Moa 13 minutes from time.
The Dragons scored first in a match that saw four players sin-binned, two from each side.
Rovers were punished for conceding a penalty for playing the ball incorrectly when Richie Myler put in Krisnan Inu for a fifth minute try and Luke Walsh converted.
Three minutes later Catalans loose-forward Ben Garcia was yellow-carded for a dangerous challenge on Rovers winger Scott Turner and Featherstone quickly capitalised on the extra man.
Anthony Thackeray’s neat kick forced a goalline drop out before James Lockwood’s superb off-load sent in Scotland international prop Sam Brooks for his first try for the club.
Kyran Johnson’s conversion levelled the scores but Walsh soon edged the French side back in front with a penalty goal.
Justin Horo had two efforts ruled out by video referee Ben Thaler as Featherstone did well to survive a spell of Catalans pressure.
The Dragons then stretched their lead to 12 points with two tries in two minutes.
Brayden Williame capitalised on Walsh’s kick, with the touchdown being awarded by the video referee, overturning referee Liam Moore’s on-field ‘no try’ decision.
The Dragons swiftly struck again when Garcia plunged over from close range from acting half for a try that Inu goaled.
Featherstone battled back to reduce the deficit to six points in the 32nd minute when Turner intercepted Walsh’s pass and raced 80 yards before sending in the supporting Thackeray, with Johnson adding the goal.
Featherstone’s Misi Taulapapa went close early in the second-half but was foiled when Vincent Duport grounded Thackeray’s kick behind his own try line and Rovers prop Luke Cooper was halted inches short.
Catalans second-rower Louis Anderson and Rovers winger Luke Briscoe were sin-binned after a 59th minute punch-up.
Five minutes later, Featherstone hooker Keal Carlile was sin-binned for a late, high tackle on Walsh and Inu kicked the goal from the resulting penalty.
Rovers continnued to compete excellently but Catalans sealed victory when Moa powered over and Inu added the extras.
It left Featherstone still looking for their first win in the Qualifiers while Catalans boosted their hopes of a top-three finish and avoiding playing in the Million Pound Game.
Rovers host Warrington Wolves next Sunday and visit fellow Championship club Halifax in their final Qualifiers fixture the following week.
Catalans Dragons: Tierney; Duport, Inu, Williame, Yaha; Walsh, Myler; Moa, Da Costa, Casty, Anderson, Horo, Garcia. Subs: Bousquet, Baitieri, Albert, Margalet.
Featherstone Rovers: Johnson; Briscoe, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Turner; Thackeray, Wildie; Mariano, Carlile, Brooks, Davies, Farrell, Lockwood. Subs: Tagg, Cooper, Walters, Igbinedion.
Referee: Liam Moore.