AFTER a painful loss in the south of France, Leeds Rhinos coach Dave Furner defended his decision to drop stand-off Tui Lolohea.
The Tongan and former New Zealand international was named in Rhinos’ initial squad, but did not make the trip to Perpignan.
It was the first time he has been left out since joining Leeds from Wests Tigers in pre-season and Liam Sutcliffe, a utility-player who has settled into the second-row this year, was moved to stand-off and took over goal kicking duties.
He has done both in the past and was one of Leeds’s better players in the 26-22 defeat to Catalans Dragons.
Explaining the selection, Furner said: “I was looking for more stability and control and I thought he [Sutcliffe] looked very comfortable there.
“We needed to change; we didn’t close off the game last week and I made the decision to have a bit more stability on the right edge.
“When you put players in that position you need to talk about where they need to improve and I spoke to Tui about that.
“He is certainly a special player, but what I looked at was what’s best for the team and that was Liam Sutcliffe in at No 6.”
Rhinos, eight-time Super League champions, have won only once in eight games this year and are bottom of the table.
They led 12-0, 16-6 and 20-16 at Stade Gilbert Brutus, but Furner felt errors in their own half and ill-discipline – six points were conceded when Brett Ferres was in the sin-bin – cost his men the points.
“I loved the way we attacked the game,” he said.
“We had plenty of energy and in the first half we nearly completed at 100 per cent, so really good control.
“The second half, unfortunately, we had three major errors out of yardage [coming away from Leeds’s line] which gave them a bit more energy.
“That was probably the disappoining part, but we had an opportunity to win the game.
“We never stopped trying, but we have got to learn to close those games off.
“It’s that and a bit of discipline too.”