Early chance for Leeds Rhinos to avenge 2015 play-offs loss

HAPPY HUNTING GROUND: Leeds Rhinos were one of only two teams to win against Catalans Dragons at Stade Gilbert Brutus last season.
HAPPY HUNTING GROUND: Leeds Rhinos were one of only two teams to win against Catalans Dragons at Stade Gilbert Brutus last season.
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THIS year marks the 10th anniversary of French side Catalans Dragons’ entry into Super League and the game there later this month will be the 14th time Leeds Rhinos have visited Perpignan.

A trip to the south of France is a highlight of the season for travelling fans and an eye-opener for anyone who thinks rugby league is confined to the north of England or Sydney. Perpignan is one of the sport’s heartlands and attending a game at Stade Gilbert Brutus should be on every fan’s to-do list. French fans are loud and intimidating, but they appreciate good rugby and seem genuinely happy to welcome visiting supporters.

Leading leisure airline Jet2.com offers friendly low fares, great flight times, and a generous 22kg baggage allowance to Barcelona from Leeds Bradford Airport. Flights start from £42 one way including taxes. For more information please visit www.jet2.com or call 0800 408 5599.

Rhinos have drawn an early-season visit in Super League for the third successive year and will face Catalans in Perpignan a week on Saturday. There are no direct flights from Leeds-Bradford to Perpignan, which has its own airport close to Catalans’ ground, but Rhinos have chartered a Jet2.com flight from Yeadon to Perpignan, leaving the day before the game and returning straight afterwards.

For fans travelling independently it is possible to fly direct from Stansted, but a more adventurous – and better – option for anyone wanting to make a weekend of it is to fly via Jet2 to Barcelona and then catch a train to and from Perpignan.

Barcelona is one of Europe’s top destinations and Jet2’s Friday morning flight arrives in time for most of a day there. Highlights include a walk along La Ramblas to the waterfront, a look round Camp Nou or the Olympic Stadium and an evening visit to the dancing fountains at Montjuic.

Direct trains from Barcelona to Paris stop in Perpignan, after a journey time of around 90 minutes. It’s fast, convenient and – at around 50 Euros for the return trip – relatively inexpensive.

Salvador Dali described Perpignan railway station as the centre of the universe. It’s not, but the town itself is worth a day of anybody’s time.

The most fan-friendly bars and restaurants are situated around the Castillet in the centre of town; many put out signs welcoming visiting fans and waiters and bar staff don shirts of that day’s opposition.

There are plenty of hotels within walking distance of the ground and the station, so accommodation isn’t a problem. It’s usually possible to find somewhere at late notice and rooms are available around 50-100 Euros per night.

Buses run from the town centre to the ground – displaying Ales Les Dragons messages alongside their destination – for a fare of around 1.20 Euros, though it is an easy walk.

Perpignan can be windy – it’s at the foot of the Pyrenees – and sometimes wet, but the climate is warm throughout the rugby season and blisteringly hot in summer.

Slightly outside the town, Perpignan has its own beach at Canet-en-Rousillon and near-by Collioure is a nice spot to visit in summer

It’s a good idea to make the most of the trip, because Catalans’ home record makes it a tough place for visiting teams. The French outfit managed just two wins on their travels last season – at Wakefield and Hull – but were beaten only twice on home soil, by Rhinos and Huddersfield. Whether Rhinos can avenge last year’s play-offs defeat remains to be seen, but whatever the result, Catalans away is always worth the effort.

Leading leisure airline Jet2.com offers friendly low fares, great flight times, and a generous 22kg baggage allowance to Barcelona from Leeds Bradford Airport.

Flights start from £42 one way including taxes.

For more information please visit www.jet2.com or call 0800 408 5599.

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