LEEDS RHINOS will go into the Super-8s as league leaders following a 36-22 win over Catalans Dragons at Headingley.
Leeds led only 18-16 with 30 minutes left, but three tries in six minutes at the start of the final quarter ensured a victory which moved them a point ahead of St Helens on the final Super League table.
Leeds’s hero was winger Tom Briscoe, who scored a hat-trick in his first game for four months following shoulder surgery.
Rhinos scored back-to-back tries to take a 16-10 interval lead, after Catalans had hit back to go 10-6 ahead.
Briscoe, who had missed 19 games, opened the scoring after four minutes from Kallum Watkins’s pass, Kevin Sinfield converting.
But Tony Gigot touched down from a kick by Scott Dureau, who also added the extras and then moments later Morgan Escare went over from the scrum-half’s pass for Dragons’ second try, on 26 minutes.
Four minutes before the break Watkins put Briscoe over for his second to level the scores and on the final play of the half Mitch Garbutt stormed in from a pass by Sinfield, who added his second goal.
Sinfield booted a penalty at the start of the second half, but Dureau’s try and conversion cut the gap to two points on 50 minutes.
Sinfield landed another penalty after a spear tackle on Kylie Leuluai, which was placed on report, then Leeds hit the turbos..
Watkins raced the length of the field, Briscoe’s pass put Brett Delaney over and then Briscoe completed his hat-trick from a grubber kick by Sinfield, who added two conversions to make it 36-16.
Tony Gigot added a second try, converted by Dureau and that completed the scoring, though Catalans should have had a try late on when Ben Pomeroy crossed, but the pass was incorrectly ruled forward.
Elsewhere, Leroy Cudjoe scored his 100th career try as Huddersfield Giants guaranteed a top-four Super League finish with victory over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
The centre’s score was Huddersfield’s fifth of the afternoon as they took a commanding 28-12 half-time lead.
And though their opponents came back strongly after the interval, they were left to rue poor goal-kicking as Danny Brough’s try and his fifth conversion from six attempts - compared to two from five for Wakefield - secured a 34-24 victory.
Captain Joel Monaghan scored twice on his return from injury to help Warrington end the regular First Utility Super League season on a high with a 44-6 rout of Castleford Tigers.
The free-scoring Australian winger had missed the Wolves’ previous four matches with a calf injury but made his mark with two of his side’s nine tries as condemned the Tigers to their heaviest home defeat under coach Daryl Powell.
It was the perfect preparation for Warrington’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Hull KR on Saturday and will put them in good heart for the Super 8s in which they will start four points behind Huddersfield in the all-important fourth spot.
Castleford fans, meanwhile, will be fearing that their team are about to once more falter towards the end of the season after promising so much.