Leeds delivered the perfect response to last week’s record Super League defeat by ending Catalans Dragons’ unbeaten start to the season in style.
An open letter from chief executive Gary Hetherington suggested Brian McDermott had four matches to save his job in the wake of the 66-10 rout at Castleford and the Rhinos showed they were fully behind their coach in a convincing 46-10 victory.
Adam Cuthbertson opened the scoring from Matt Parcell’s offload and he returned the favour just before the break after Brayden Williame had responded for the Dragons.
Jimmy Keinhorst and Julian Bousquet traded tries but Cuthbertson went over for his second before Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire and Sutcliffe all crossed to complete an incredible turnaround in fortunes for the Rhinos.
Catalans would have been expecting a fast start from a fired-up Leeds and that is exactly what they had to contend with.
The Rhinos had already had a Sutcliffe try ruled out for a forward pass by Joel Moon when Cuthbertson took Parcell’s offload close to the line and reached out to touch down.
Liam Sutcliffe converted from in front and knocked over a penalty to make it 8-0 to Leeds, who were reduced to 11 men when Cuthbertson and Keinhorst were sin-binned. Dragons’ pressure finally told as centre Williame went over out wide.
Cuthbertson quickly made amends for his indiscipline by laying on the Rhinos’ second try, Parcell’s first in Leeds colours.
Sutcliffe made it three from three from the boot to give Leeds a 10-point cushion.
Keinhorst dummied his way over from acting-half and Sutcliffe converted to make it 20-4 but Catalans were back in it when Bousquet touched down next to the posts despite loud calls for a forward pass. The comeback was shortlived as Leeds motored out of sight with three quickfire tries.
Cuthbertson powered his way over to settle any Leeds nerves before Burrow raced over from long range and McGuire finished off a fine team move for his first try since the 2015 Grand Final.
Sutcliffe got on the end of Burrow’s kick to touch down and added two more goals to make it nine from nine as Leeds bounced back emphatically.
McDermott described Rhinos as “really good” and he insisted: “I believe we can win the Grand Final.
“Sometimes you have got to be kicked in the groin to find out the best of you.
“This does not write off last week, it still hurts, we are still embarrassed by it, but I have got the best job in the game and part of that is dealing with the losses.
“Tonight was a good night, but we’ve got to knock about another 10 versions of tonight together over the next few weeks.”
McDermott felt his team handled a “really difficult night extremely well.”
He said their attacking display proved Rhinos’ system works and he singled Danny McGuire, Jimmy Keinhorst, Joel Moon - who played in the halves - and Adam Cuthbertson out for special praise.
The coach also felt hooker Matt Parcell had his best game since joining the club and hailed full-back Ashton Golding for a remarkable try-saving tackle on Justin Horo in the first half.
He said: “For him to react with such urgency was as good as you’ll see. Last week he copped some stick, some of that stick is unfair. Tonight he looked strong.”
Leeds: Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Keinhorst, Ablett, Baldwinson. Substitutes: Mullally, Burrow, Delaney, Walters.
Catalans Dragons: Bosc, Broughton, Duport, Wiliame, Thornley, Walsh, Myler, Bird, Horo, Garcia, Burgess, Aiton, Casty. Substitutes: Anderson, Bousquet, Baitieri, Da Costa.
Referee: J Child (RFL).