NEW GROUND was broken 13 years ago today when Leeds Rhinos played in Perpignan for the first time.
What was officially a home game for opponents London Broncos was moved to Stade Aime Giral – home of the USAP rugby union club – to promote Super League ahead of Catalans Dragons’ entry into the competition the following season.
It was an unhappy evening for Rhinos who, ahead of the game, looked to be on an unstoppable charge to a second successive league leaders’ shield.
Coach Tony Smith’s men had won 21 of their 23 games in all competitions, including a 32-12 home victory over London in a Challenge Cup quarter-final two weeks earlier.
Around 1,000 Rhinos fans travelled to the game and they were partying in the stands when Leeds went 24-8 ahead 14 minutes into the second half.
Then the wheels came off and Broncos scored four unanswered tries in the final 20 minutes to snatch a shock 32-24 win.
Rhinos were without Kevin Sinfield who had suffered a dislocated thumb in the previous game against Bradford Bulls, so Keith Senior was skipper for the day.
USAP were less than welcoming to the rugby league visitors and insult came before injury when Rhinos’ coaching staff were thrown out of their seats as the game started.
Matt Diskin came off the bench for Leeds to make his first appearance of the season, following knee damage sustained playing for Great Britain the previous autumn.
Rhinos led 20-8 at half-time through tries by Marcus Bai, Richard Mathers, Danny McGuire and Mark Calderwood, plus two goals from Rob Burrow.
Senior increased their advantage before Broncos hit back. Nick Bradley-Qalilawa and Thomas Leuluai scored in both halves and Luke Dorn and Mark O’Halloran were their other try scorers. Paul Sykes booted four goals.
London Broncos 32 (Tries: Bradley-Qalilawa 2, Leuluai 2, Dorn, O’Halloran. Goals: Sykes 4)
Leeds Rhinos 24 (Tries: Bai, Mathers, McGuire, Calderwood, Senior. Goals: Burrow 2)
July 9, 2005, Super League
London Broncos: McLinden, O’Halloran, Smith, Sykes, Bradley-Qalilawa, Dorn, Leuluai, Trindall, Highton, Armour, Haumono, Hopkins, Purdham. Subs Lolohea, Tookey, Mateo, Mbu.
Leeds Rhinos: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey Dunemann, WARD, McKenna, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis. Subs McDermott, Poching, Lauitiiti, Diskin.
Referee: Ashley Klein.