LEEDS RHINOS’ season is over after they crashed to a 24-20 defeat by Catalan Dragons at Headingley this evening.
A tense Super League elimination play-off was decided in the final moments when Tom Briscoe spilled a pass from Kevin Sinfield on Rhinos’ line and Sam Williams picked up to go over.
It was no more than Catalan deserve in a tight encounter which saw Leeds take the lead three times, including what looked like being the winning touchdown with 10 minutes left.
Rhinos defended solidly throughout, but never got their attacking game into gear agaInst a resolute French outfit, who had lost all their previous nine visits to Leeds.
Rhinos scored eight points in the final four minutes of the first half to take a 14-6 lead into the break.
It was 6-6 until the 36th minute, when Catalan’s Vincent Duport was placed on report for a late challenge on Kevin Sinfield after a kick by the Rhinos skipper.
The penalty was awarded where the ball landed, in front of the posts 10 metres out and - with Sinfield still recovering from the impact - Zak Hardaker took the two.
With a minute of the half remaining Catalan were awarded a scrum following a knock-on by Jamie Peacock.
But Morgan Escare dropped the ball, Briscoe hacked on, Kallum Watkins joined in the chase to twice kick ahead and the Dream Team centre made a clean pick up to dive over, Sinfield adding the extras after the hooter.
Leeds had gone ahead for the first time on 17 minutes, after a Louis Anderson’s late tackle on Sinfield.
In the set from the penalty Sinfield, Peacock and Danny McGuire worked the ball to Carl Ablett and he brushed off Escare to power over, with Sinfield converting.
Dragons made a series of breaks after that and levelled with a nice try when Benjamin Garcia’s pass split the defence and put Gregory Mounis into a gap and his gap was finished by Sam Williams. Thomas Bosc added the extras.
Dragons narrowed the gap six minutes after the interval when Bosc’s kick was taken by Zeb Taia and he slid over.
Video referees Richard Silverwood and Ian Smith gave the green light and Bosc landed the goal.
Then Hall dropped a kick from Williams and in the set from the penalty Anderson went over the top of Hardaker for Dragons’ third try, with Bosc’s conversion giving the visitors an 18-14 lead.
A sensational tackle by Hardaker on Escare kept Rhinos in the game and they hit the front for the third time with 10 left when Jamie Jones-Buchanan powered over after some incredible handling near the line and Sinfield kept his nerve to add the goal.
That should have been it, but a penalty carried Catalan upfield, they got a scrum a few metres out and though Hardaker seemed to have saved the day by getting out of his in-goal, Briscoe’s catastrophic error ended their season.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, T Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Sinfield, Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Delaney. Subs (all used) Aiton, Bailey, Achurch, Sutcliffe.
Catalan Dragons: Escare, Oldfield, Pomeroy, Duport, Millard, Bosc, Williams, Elima, Henderson, Anderson, Taia, Whitehead, Mounis. Subs (all used) Lima, Bousquet, Pelissier, Garcia.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington). Attendance: 7,112