AFTERWARDS, ROB Burrow described it as “one of our best wins in recent years”.
Four years ago on Wednesday, when Leeds Rhinos faced Catalans Dragons in Perpignan, it looked like mission impossible.
The defending Super League champions had finished fifth in the table for the second successive year and began their play-off campaign with a big home win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
But they were playing sudden-death rugby throughout and the trip to France was expected by the pundits to be one game too far.
With few Rhinos fans having been able to make the journey at a week’s notice, Leeds had to contend with a hostile home crowd and opponents who fancied their chances of going all the way to Old Trafford after finishing third in the table.
Rhinos looked to be in trouble when Clint Greenshields scored the opening try for Catalans, who were saying farewell to some star names making their final appearance at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
But Rhinos weathered the storm and hit the front just six minutes before the break when Darrell Griffin and Zak Hardaker set up a try for Stevie Ward, which Kevin Sinfield converted.
Two minutes later Shaun Lunt crossed from Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s break and Sinfield’s conversion made it 12-4.
But Rhinos pressed for another try and were caught on the counter as Damien Blanch raced the length of the field and Scott Dureau added the first of his two conversions.
Leeds went behind early in the second half to Blanch’s second try and it looked like they might run out of steam, but Carl Ablett touched down from Sinfield’s grubber and off the restart Ryan Bailey rampaged upfield and Danny McGuire was in support to score a sensational touchdown.
Sinfield converted both and landed a penalty after Thomas Bosc had crossed for Catalans.
Leading by six, Rhinos were put under huge pressure, but sealed a memorable 27-20 win late on when McGuire landed a drop goal.
Catalans Dragons 20
(Tries: Blanch 2, Greenshields, Bosc. Goals: Dureau 2)
Leeds Rhinos 27 (Tries: Ward, Lunt, Ablett, McGuire. Goals: Sinfield 5. Drop goal: McGuire)
Super League Play-offs September 21, 2012
Catalans Dragons: Greenshields, Blanch, Sa, Duport, Millard, Bosc, Dureau, Ferriol, Henderson, Casty, Menzies, Anderson, Baitieri. Subs: Pryce, Mounis, Fakir, Paea.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Kirke, Burrow, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Bailey. Subs: Clarkson, Griffin, Ward, Lunt.
Referee: Ben Thaler.