Leeds Rhinos Bygones: Notorious defeat a key turning point in ‘greatest-ever’ title win

Jamie Jones-Buchanan
Jamie Jones-Buchanan
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IT WAS one of the most notorious games in Leeds Rhinos’ Super League history and a turning point in their season.

On July 10, 2011, Rhinos were embarrassed 38-18 by Catalans Dragons at Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan.

It was Leeds’ third consecutive defeat and after it they were eighth in the Super League table, with qualifying for the play-offs looking like a tall order.

What was already a disappointing season hit a new low, but amid all the disappointment, the foundations were laid for arguably Leeds’ greatest-ever title success.

Nobody after the defeat, in sapping heat in the south of France, made any attempt to hide the scale of the loss.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan described it as “ridiculously disappointing” and “the most disappointed I have been in a lot of years”.

Coach Brian McDermott was grim-faced in the post-match press conference as he reflected on a “dumb” performance.

It was relatively tight early on. Catalans went ahead through Sebastien Raguin and the first of Scott Dureau’s five goals, but Ryan Hall crossed and Kevin Sinfield converted to level the scores.

Frederic Vaccari and Damien Blanch touched down for the hosts before the break and Steve Menzies crossed soon afterwards, but Leeds seemed to be fighting back when Jones-Buchanan and Danny Buderus went over, Sinfield adding two more goals.

That made it 26-18, but Leeds collapsed completely as Catalans ran in three late tries through Clint Greenshields, Vincent Duport and Vaccari.

It was an ill-disciplined performance by Leeds who fell foul of referee James Child and gifted Catalans many of their points with basic errors.

Famously, Leeds’ players and coaching staff got together after the match and decided enough was enough.

Rhinos had two choices, to wave the white flag or knuckle down and play to their potential. They chose the latter option, losing just two more games all season, at London Broncos in Super League and the Challenge Cup final a week later.

They climbed three places on the table to finish fifth and swept the opposition aside in the play-offs, going on to beat St Helens in the Grand Final, a prospect which would have been regarded as laughable that dismal day in Perpignan.