Something had to give at Emerald Headingley as a Leeds Rhinos side, unbeaten in their last four games came up against a top of the table Catalans Dragons side who were unbeaten since losing in the Challenge Cup at the beginning of May and who were on a winning run in Super League going back as far as the 24th April.
Leeds coach Richard Agar welcomed back skipper Luke Gale, Richie Myler, King Vuniyayawa and Cameron Smith while the league leaders were without the services of Gil Dudson and Micky McIlorum who missing through suspension and injury.
The bookies made the away side slight favourites but there wasn’t a lot in it, the Rhinos being given just a four-point start in the handicap coupon.
The Rhinos seemed to get away with a tip tackle in the fourth minute and after breaking down field Tom Briscoe nearly went over in the corner but for a superb tackle from Sam Tomkins.
The Dragons took the lead with a penalty goal from the boot of James Maloney after a late tackle from Leeds on eight minutes.
On ten minutes, a terrific solo try from Arthur Mourgue, stepping out of two tackles, and palming off a third, to score from twenty metres out. Maloney added the conversion and the Dragons already had an 8-0 lead.
On fourteen the Rhinos hit back when a Richie Myler chip over the top came off a Dragons defender into the hands of the waiting Rhyse Martin to take one step and drop over the line. Martin added the conversion to reduce the arrears to two points.
The Rhinos hit the front on twenty-two after gaining good field position in a nice passing move. Close to the line a fast play the ball saw Brad Dwyer feed Bodene Thompson who had five metres to run before diving over the line. Martin added the conversion for 12-8.
Both teams squandered opportunities before the Dragons were cruelly reduced to twelve men on thirty-four after Sam Kasiano was adjudged to have hit Luke Briscoe around the head despite arguing he slipped high after impacting the shoulder.
Liam Sutcliffe dummied as he scooted from acting half-back to score from three metres out against the twelve men with two minutes of the half remaining. Martin added the conversion to give the Rhinos an 18-8 lead at the interval.
A good period of Dragons pressure at the start of the second half and on fifty-one Matt Whitley spotted a gap in the Rhinos defence to break the line and run the angle to score from twenty metres out. Mourgue took over the kicking duties and added the conversion for 14-18.
The Dragons were back in the lead on fifty-five when Maloney opened the Rhinos defence before finding Mike McMeeken on support with a clear run at the line to touch down under the uprights. Mourgue’s kick made it 20-18 to the Dragons.
Maloney kicked a 40-20 on sixty-two and two plays in Fouad Yaha forced the ball to ground off a Sam Tomkins pass to extend the Dragons lead to six points. Mourgue converted brilliantly to return his side to the eight-point lead they’d earlier surrendered.
A superb Myler tackle prevented Samisoni Langi from grounding on seventy, giving the Rhinos some hope but the Dragons doubled-down in defence and prevented the Rhinos from registering a single point in the second half.
After giving up the early lead, and going into the interval trailing by ten points, this was a fantastic second half comeback by the league leaders to secure another two points and another win to their win percentage. The Dragons kept their composure, rode the storm of being a man down, and came from behind to overcome one of the form sides after not giving them and position or possession in the second half.
Leeds Rhinos: Myler, Briscoe T, Sutcliffe L (T), Hurrell Briscoe T, Gale, Leeming, Holroyd, Dwyer, Prior, Mellor, Martin (T, 3G), Thompson (T). Subs: Vuniyayawa, Smith, Donaldson, O’Connor.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins S, Davies, Langi, Whare, Yaha, Maloney (2G), Mourgue (T, 3G), Bousquet, Garcia, Tomkins J, Whitley (T), McMeeken (T), Goudemand. Subs: Seguier, Da Costa, Baitieri, Kasiano (SB on 34).
Referee: James Child.
Score Progression: 0-2, 0-6, 0-8, 4-8, 6-8, 10-8, 12-8, (SB), 16-8, 18-8 : HT : 18-12, 18-14, 18-18, 18-20, 18-24, 18-26 : FT.