Leeds Rhinos 4 Catalans Dragons 10: Rhinos lack spark in dispiriting defeat

LEEDS RHINOS had only themselves to blame as they went down to a third defeat in as many games this season, losing 10-4 at home to Catalans Dragons tonight.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 11:26 pm

A few things went against them, but Leeds didn’t do enough to take the points.

It was a dispiriting performance, lacking spark with ball in hand and a very poor game overall,

Despite taking the lead, Rhinos never gained the upper hand and there were boos from the South Stand at the final whistle.

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OPENING SALVO: Blake Austin scores Leeds Rhinos' try against Catalans Dragons. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The scores were locked 4-4 at the end of the first half which finished 59 minutes after it had been due to start.

One try each was a fair reflection of a dour opening 40 which lacked intensity and open rugby.

The tries were scored three minutes apart and other than that, not a lot happened.

Catalans went in front early in the second period and though they had a touchdown ruled out soon afterwards, Rhinos didn’t look like pulling it back.

Leeds Rhinos' Alex Mellor leaves the pitch due to injury. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The home team didn’t create enough. They let Catalans dictate the pace and couldn’t make much headway even when the visitors were reduced to 12 men in the final quarter.

Catalans defended well, but Rhinos’ attack was poor.

Rhinos went big, with Matt Prior, Zane Tetevano and Mikolaj Oledzki – a substitute in the two previous games – all in the starting 13.

Tetevano moved from the front-row to loose-forward, though effectively playing as an extra prop.

Leeds Rhinos' Aidan Sezer is stopped by the Catalans Dragons defence. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The planned forward rotation was thrown out of balance inside the opening three minutes when Alex Mellor was hurt.

That caused a long stoppage before he left the field on a stretcher, reducing Leeds to 16 available players for almost all the game.

Rhinos were already without both first-choice second-rowers, with James Bentley suspended and Rhyse Martin away on compassionate leave.

Both teams went through a mini-warm up during the delay, Catalans to shouts of “forward” and “offside” as they passed a ball around in front of the South Stand.

Bodene Thompson replaced Mellor and had a strong game. Other than that, it was difficult to pick out anyone else who particularly played well for Leeds, though Blake Austin was official man of the match.

Later in the first half, Austin went off for a head injury assessment after a tackle involving Michael McIlorum, who caught him high with an open hand and then seemed to land on the Leeds man.

There was no penalty and Austin returned for the second half.

Rhinos had the first opportunity when a long pass from Kruise Leeming found Morgan Gannon in space on the left, but with Liam Sutcliffe and Ash Handley in support, he passed into touch.

In the next set, Benjamin Jullien got past Aidan Sezer, but Jack Walker made the try-saving tackle.

Walker saved the day again moments later with an ankle tap on Tom Davies, before Thompson made a big tackle to stop Mike McMeeken, the former Castleford Tigers second-rower who was filling in at prop.

Prior, with two tries already this year, nearly added a third after a 40-20 from Leeming, penalty and drop out.

It was 23 minutes before the deadlock was broken and, for the second successive game, Austin opened the scoring. A drop out and penalty put Catalans under pressure, then Austin took a pass from Sezer, stepped past Whare, seemed about to lose the ball, but managed to stretch over through Mitchell Pearce’s attempted tackle.

Sezer’s kick hit a post and Catalans were level within three minutes when – after successive penalties – Fouad Yaha went over at the corner from a long pass by Sam Tomkins, whose conversion attempt rebounded away off a post.

It was clearly a try, but referee Jack Smith asked Chris Kendall to check for a foul by Liam Tindall as Yaha touched down, but the video assistant decided not.

Yaha and Tindall were involved in the lead up to Dragons’ second try, on 50 minutes. Tindall seemed to be shoved off the ball by the Catalans man, but referee Smith gave the visitors six more tackles and in that set Joe Chan strolled through a big gap in the defence from Sam Kasiano’s pass.

Josh Drinkwater added the extras and just minutes later there was a similar incident as Whare pushed Tindall away as he tried to reach Pearce’s kick behind Leeds’ line.

Yaha touched down and Smith indicated a try, but Kendall overturned the decision and a penalty went to Leeds.

Tindall was sin-binned at Wigan last week for a similar incident, when he prevented a try.

The yellow card did come out with 14 minutes left when Pearce went high on Tindall. Benjamin Garcia was held up over Rhinos’ line, by Brad Dwyer and Cameron Smith, soon afterwards and Leeds missed a huge opportunity to get back in the game with seven minutes left when Sezer’s pass found Gannon, but he knocked on. Leeds made far too many errors when they did get close to Catalans line and there was nothing to get excited about in their performance.

The penalty count finished seven-five in favour of Leeds, after being four-four at half-time.