MATCH-WINNING CAPTAIN Danny McGuire was so exhausted at the end of a draining clash in Perpignan he could hardly talk, but he made no effort to hide his pride at a battling Leeds Rhinos performance.
McGuire provided the final kick or pass for two of Rhinos’ five tries and nipped over for the winner in the final moments as Leeds hit back from the brink of defeat to beat Catalans Dragons 30-24 at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
The victory completed a home and away Betfred Super League double and got Leeds back on track after the previous week’s shock home loss to Huddersfield Giants.
It was a confidence-boosting result at the start of a month which includes meetings with Super League leaders Castleford Tigers and resurgent Warrington Wolves.
McGuire said: “It was tough out there. The sun sprang up on us – it was the first time we’ve played in those conditions and it was a bit of a shock to the system, but the lads were brilliant.
“I thought we were a bit scratchy at times, but the commitment to the cause from everybody was unbelievable and that’s what it needs when you come to Catalans.
“It has to be a collective effort across the board. Our middle guys worked tirelessly and our outside-backs were brilliant as well. It was a really good team performance.”
Rhinos trailed 16-6 in the first half and 22-12 soon after half-time.
“They are a good team,” McGuire said of Catalans. “They’ve got some big boys and some smart players.
“They got a bit of a roll on and every time they got an opportunity they were pretty clinical with it.
“But we believed and we felt like if we got an equal share of ball and ball in their area we could post some points.
“It was nice to do that towards the back end and we showed some real character.”
Leeds were without centre Kallum Watkins and winger Ryan Hall who played for England in Saturday’s Test win over Samoa in Sydney.
Prop Mitch Garbutt was on paternity leave and did not travel to France. McGuire said: “Both teams were missing some key personnel.
“I am sure Catalans will come back. We were missing some key players, but it was great to see Mikolaj Oledzki make his Super League debut and I thought he had a good impact.
“I thought Ash Handley and Ashton Golding were very good, all the young lads were really, really good.
“It’s good that when we are missing some key personnel other players come in and step up to the plate.”
Coach Brian McDermott admitted Leeds weren’t at their best, but he hailed the “grit” they showed to tough out a win.
“Coming here is difficult and we were playing a side who had a disappointing loss last week so they were really fired up,” McDermott reflected.
“I said at half-time although it wasn’t a vintage performance up until then, that’s what it’s like here. I said you have to get used to being on the back foot and being near your own tryline whether you think you should be there or not and let’s see if we can dig one out.
“I’ve got to admit I didn’t think we’d come back when they pulled out more than two tries in front.”