Leeds Rhinos 25 Catalans Dragons 28: Pressure mounts on troubled Rhinos after Headingley defeat

Leeds Rhinos Luke Briscoe goes over for a try past Catalans Dragons' Samisoni Langi.Leeds Rhinos Luke Briscoe goes over for a try past Catalans Dragons' Samisoni Langi.
Leeds Rhinos Luke Briscoe goes over for a try past Catalans Dragons' Samisoni Langi.
Catalans Dragons staged a superb second-half fightback to inflict a sixth straight defeat on Leeds Rhinos that dragged the Super League champions into the relegation battle.

The Rhinos have slipped out of top-four contention amid an injury crisis and are now in real danger of finishing in the Qualifiers after losing the rearranged fixture at Headingley 28-25.

Samisoni Langi gave Catalans the perfect start but the Rhinos hit back in emphatic fashion through tries from Jack Walker, Liam Sutcliffe and Cameron Smith.

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Luke Briscoe marked his return to Leeds as a temporary replacement for England winger Ryan Hall with a well-taken try, only for Fouad Yaha, Lewis Tierney and Kenny Edwards to add to Josh Drinkwater’s effort to level the scores.

Sutcliffe’s drop goal appeared to have won it for Leeds but Adam Cuthbertson dropped the restart and Edwards made him pay to move the Dragons to within a point of the fading Rhinos.

Catalans were quickly out of the blocks as Langi took advantage of a Leeds error in the opening set to power his way over. But the Rhinos were rewarded with three quick-fire tries. Walker was first to cross as he weaved his way over and in the next set Sutcliffe finished a 60-metre break.

Sutcliffe added the extras to his own try and was on target again after Smith steamed through an attempted tackle before dummying his way over.

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Leeds were enjoying themselves but they let the Dragons back into the game after overplaying in their own half, Drinkwater throwing a dummy on his way to the line.

The Australian half-back failed to convert from out wide and Catalans found themselves down to 12 men when Greg Bird was sin-binned for a spear tackle on Mikolaj Oledzki.

Prop Tom Holroyd, 17, was handed his debut as half-time approached and he was soon celebrating as Luke Briscoe displayed the kind of finishing that saw him equal the British record for tries in 17 consecutive games for Featherstone.

Sutcliffe nailed his touchline conversion to make it 24-10 at half-time and Leeds would have been out of sight had Tom Briscoe not been pulled back for a forward pass on his way to the line.

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That proved to be a crucial moment as Yaha claimed Drinkwater’s cross-field kick to touch down and Tierney finished well in the corner after Ash Handley failed to deal with a high kick.

Drinkwater missed both conversions but made no mistake after Edwards scored at the end of another powerful set to wipe out Leeds’s lead.

The Rhinos managed to halt Catalans’ momentum in a nervy final quarter and edged in front when Sutcliffe slotted over a drop goal despite a poor pass from Cuthbertson. The Australian then made a mess of the restart and Edwards made him pay by muscling his way over out wide and Leeds’s nightmare continued as Matt Parcell was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.

It appeared as if the Rhinos would get out of jail when Tom Briscoe kicked ahead and collected with the line begging but a brilliant tackle by Yaha, and a professional foul that earned him a yellow card, secured Catalans’ victory.

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Leeds Rhinos: Walker, T. Briscoe, Newman, Handley, L. Briscoe, Moon, L. Sutcliffe, Oledzki, Parcell, Garbutt, Ferres, Smith, Cuthbertson. Substitutes: Dwyer, Walters, Mullally, Holroyd.

Catalans Dragons: Gigot, Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha, Langi, Drinkwater, Casty, McIlorum, Simon, Jullien, Garcia, Bird. Substitutes: Anderson, Bousquet, Baitieri, Edwards.

Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (RFL).