Leeds Rhinos 31 Catalans Dragons 12: Rhinos will be feeling much happier about life in Super League after convincing home win moves them up the table
NINTH IN the table sounds a lot better than joint-bottom.
In this tightest of seasons it amounts to the same thing, but Leeds Rhinos will deservedly be feeling happier about life following a very important 31-12 win over Catalans Dragons which lifted them three rungs up the ladder.
After a dominant start, going 18-0 ahead, Leeds did not have it all their own way and the gap was down to six points at one stage midway through the second half.
But a big decision went Leeds’ way and they took advantage of that to finish strongly and wrap up a deserved and very important win.
Roared on by a noisy and passionate crowd of 12,638, Leeds put some recent improvements into practice.
For the most part, they took their chances well. Debutant stand-off Robert Lui didn’t have a huge impact on the game, but Leeds were more organised in attack.
Alongside Lui, Richie Myler had a fine game – even landing a late one-pointer – and he merited the man-of-the-match award.
Admittedly against struggling opposition, Leeds were good all round though. They defended strongly, didn’t make many of the yardage errors which have proved so costly this year and – crucially – kept their heads up when things went against them.
Twice within four minutes in the first half the officials missed touches by Catalans which should have given Rhinos an extra set in good field position.
The visitors then received two penalties, one of them contentious, but rather than clocking off and feeling sorry for themselves, Leeds – aided by some poor attacking options from the French side – ‘manned up’ and kept them out.
Rhinos hit the front after eight minutes through Adam Cuthbertson, who is in good form. He finished strongly at first receiver close to the line after Lui had almost weaved over.
That came off a mistake by Catalans when Sam Moa’s offload went to ground and was picked up by Myler, then Sam Tomkins was penalised for interference.
Rhinos’ second try, six minutes later, was a gift and – maybe – an indication Rhinos’ luck might be changing.
It looked like a promising attack had come to nothing when Brad Dwyer’s kick was picked up easily by Sam Kasiano, but the big front-rower immediately hurled a ridiculous pass towards Dragons’ left and Tom Briscoe intercepted to walk in from 15 metres out.
In between the tries, both of which Liam Sutcliffe converted, Catalans put a nice move together, but their Leeds-born former Rhinos academy winger Jodie Broughton was halted just short by Harry Newman, who had some fine moments throughout.
Leeds have had similar strong starts this year and not capitalised, but they kept the hammer down and added a third try on 18.
That came in the set from Leeds’ second penalty. Lui had a good run, then Dwyer and new captain Trent Merrin – who led from the front – supplied Cuthbertson and his off-load was finished by Brad Singleton, who had just come on. Singleton also made a good impact.
Catalans hit back two minutes into the second quarter, in the set from their first penalty. It was an excellent try, scored spectacularly at the right corner by Arthur Romano after terrific handling on the last from Matty Smith, Samisoni Langi, David Mead and Tomkins, who converted.
Rhinos did not make an error until the 26th minute when they created an overlap on their left, but Jack Walker’s pass went into touch. Catalans had much of the play after that, though Rhinos put themselves under unnecessary pressure on the stroke of half-time when Walker and Ash Handley got in each other’s way on their own line trying to collect a towering kick from Tomkins.
The ball went down and bitter experience from this season suggested a Dragons try was inevitable, but the visitors couldn’t complete the set and Leeds survived.
Leeds were full value for their 12-point lead at the interval, but that does not take much reeling back in the modern game and Rhinos’ second-half performances at home this year have been particularly poor.
The first try after the break would obviously have a big bearing and Catalans got it with a long-range breakout finished by Tomkins – who also converted – from Brayden Wiliame’s pass.
By that stage Rhinos were without Dwyer, who had played with real enterprise, but picked up a foot injury soon after half-time.
New signing Shaun Lunt missed out because of ankle damage so Cameron Smith, recalled to the team, had to stand in, though Dwyer returned later. Tomkins was very good for Catalans and he was unlucky when he sliced through and was en-route to what might have been an equalising try, but referee Mikalauskas pulled him back for obstruction.
That looked a tough call and it became a 12-point turnaround as Leeds scored in the next set. Konrad Hurrell had a storming game and was rewarded with a deserved try when he powered over from Walker’s pass after Myler and Lui had combined.
Sutcliffe landed a superb touchline conversion to make it 24-12 and – glory be – they extended that with 10 to go when Myler landed a well-taken drop goal.
That made it a three-score gap and Leeds could have sealed the points soon afterwards, but Smith’s touchdown was ruled out for obstruction.
There was still time, though, for Leeds to add a fifth try. Walker – who played on after taking a big hit early in the game – put on some footwork to cut through and Sutcliffe maintained his 100 per cent record with the boot.
Leeds shouldn’t get carried away. Catalans were missing several influential players, they are in a run of form and the game was closer than the result suggests.
But a win’s a win and, if Rhinos can build on what was a positive performance, they should be good enough to pull clear of danger over the next nine games, six of which are at home.
The penalty count finished 10-seven in Rhinos’ favour (six-three in the first half).
Front-rower Ava Seumanufagai is expected to be available for Friday’s derby at Castleford Tigers after missing the game yesterday on compassionate grounds.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who has been sidelined for two months with a hamstring/back problem, warmed up as 18th man and could also feature at the Jungle.