LEEDS RHINOS remain rooted to the foot of Betfred Super League after a 26-22 defeat by Catalans Dragons in Perpignan on Saturday.
As has been the case in several of their seven defeats from eight games, Rhinos played well in patches, but some soft defence, problems under kicks and ill-disciple cost them.
Rhinos led 12-0 and 16-6 and winger Ash Handley ran in a hat-trick to become the competition’s top try scorer. Catalans did not get in front for the first time until the 61st minute and the scores were level until Fouad Yaha darted over at the corner with seven minutes left.
Rhinos coach Dave Furner sprang a surprise by leaving stand-off Tui Lolohea back in Leeds, so Liam Sutcliffe was alongside Richie Myler in the halves.
The tactic seemed to be paying off early on as Ash Handley bagged a brace of tries to give Rhinos a flying start.
First he crossed from close-range off Konrad Hurrell’s pass, then intercepted a Tony Gigot offload near Leeds’ line and went the length of the field.
Fouad Yaha went over for a soft try from close-range, Sam Tomkins converting, but Hurrell powered through to open a 10-point gap.
Leeds were heavily penalised and Catalans took advantage to score two tries in the final nine minutes of the half, Yaha adding his second and then Lucas Albert touching down.
The second of those, which Tomkins converted, came seconds after Ferres has been sin-binned for going in late with his knees on Matt Whitley.
Back to 13 men, Rhinos regained the lead 10 minutes into the second half when Handley completed his hat-trick off another good pass from Myler.
There was no goal and Catalans went in front at the start of the final quarter when Yaha - who had a very brief spell in Leeds’ academy - scored his third try after Rhinos turned over possession near their own line.
Gigot had a touchdown ruled out by video official Ben Thaler - after referee Hicks had signaled a try - in the next set.
Sutcliffe equalised with a penalty in the 69th minute, but Yaha’s fourth try sent Rhinos hope unhappy.
There was late controversy when Mickael Goudemand lost the ball and Matt Parcell picked up to dash over, but Hicks awarded a scrum to Rhinos rather than the try.
Video official Thaler confirmed afterwards that was the correct call as Hicks had called the tackle complete before the ball came loose.
Harry Newman was drafted into Leeds’ squad as injury cover when Lolohea was left out, but is due to play for Featherstone Rovers against Dewsbury Rams on Sunday.
Rhinos’ squad flew to France on Friday and returned immediately after the game.