Leeds Rhinos v Catalans Dragons scene setter: opposition star man, key battle, previous meeting

Leeds Rhinos aim for a return to winning ways this week in a rare Saturday afternoon home fixture, but will need to be at their best against in-form Catalans Dragons.
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Rhinos suffered their first defeat of the season and picked up two suspensions at Hull KR last week, but could welcome back three players from injury or illness against a side who trounced them 61-0 in their previous meeting six months ago. Both teams are tipped to challenge for honours in 2024 so, even at this early stage, it is a big game. Here’s a scene-setter.

Betfred Super League round three

Date: Saturday, March 2.

Harry Newman celebrates Leeds Rhinos' home win against Catalans Dragons last March. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Harry Newman celebrates Leeds Rhinos' home win against Catalans Dragons last March. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Harry Newman celebrates Leeds Rhinos' home win against Catalans Dragons last March. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

Venue: AMT Headingley

Kick-off: 3pm

Catalans’ star man: Forward Tariq Sims is in his first Super League season after more than 200 NRL games for North Queensland Cowboys, Newcastle Knights, St George-Illawarra Dragons and Melbourne Storm. At 34, the Fiji international proved he is far from over the hill with a bell-ringer of a tackle on Warrington Wolves’ George Williams in round one and has touched down in both his Catalans appearances.

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Veteran forward Tariq Sims has made an explosive start to his Catalans Dragons career. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Veteran forward Tariq Sims has made an explosive start to his Catalans Dragons career. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Veteran forward Tariq Sims has made an explosive start to his Catalans Dragons career. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
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Key battle: The teams look evenly-matched in the backs, but - with three players missing from the middle unit - Rhinos will have their hands full against Catalans’ giant pack. Unless the likes of Justin Sangare and Tom Holroyd can get on the front foot, Catalans’ big men including Sims, Mike McMeeken and Julien Bousquet will make life difficult for the hosts.

Previous meeting: September 16, 2023. Betfred Super League round 26. Catalans Dragons 61 (Tries Keighran 3, Davies 2, Johnstone 2, Garcia, Pearce, Ikuvalu. Goals Keighran 9, Tomkins. Drop goal Tomkins), Leeds Rhinos 0. Attendance: 9,162. Referee: Ben Thaler.

Verdict: Three potential returnees will give Rhinos a boost, but - without Mikolaj Oledzki and Sam Lisone - they might struggle for go-forward in the middle of the field. Catalans, who are known for a powerful pack, are in good form and near full-strength so it is a massive challenge for the hosts. The backs can score points if they get enough ball in good field position, but Rhinos will definitely need to go around the opposition rather than through them and keeping 13 players on the field throughout will be crucial.