A disappointing evening in the South of France saw Leeds Rhinos suffer a 61-0 defeat to Catalans Dragons at the Stade Gilbert Brutus as their chances of making the top six dwindled.
The sole change for the Rhinos from their Round 25 loss to Wigan was Derrell Olpherts’ return to the side, replacing the suspended Sam Walters. Morgan Gannon shifted to the second row to cover for Walters in the forwards, while Rhyse Martin moved back to partner Jack Sinfield in the halves, and Olpherts teamed up with Ash Handley on the left edge.
Early errors from Michael McIlorum and Derrell Olpherts hinted at a shaky start for both teams in the heat, but the Dragons took the lead after just two minutes. Adam Keighran created space on the edge, setting up a break for his winger partner Tom Johnstone, who returned the favour inside for Keighran to score in the corner.
Mike McMeeken came close to securing a second for the Dragons, but strong defence on the goal line from the Leeds side prevented the prop from scoring. However, Catalans patiently added two more tries before the 20-minute mark. McIlorum sent captain Ben Garcia over from short range, and then, following a half break from the Dragons’ hooker, Sam Tomkins skirted across the Leeds line and fired a wide pass for Davies to catch and score. Keighran successfully converted all three tries, making the score 18-0.
More pressure from the Dragons on the Leeds line threatened to add more points for the home side, but resolute defense from James McDonnell in particular saw the forward stop Julian Bousquet and Matt Whitley. The Rhinos couldn’t prevent Johnstone, though, as the winger was put over by Tyone May after Catalans capitalized on a poor kick on the last tackle from Cameron Smith.
The Rhinos exerted their best spell of pressure as the game neared its final ten minutes. Following a short restart after the Johnstone try, consecutive penalties brought the visitors closer to the try line, setting up Jack Sinfield, who attempted to get a hand on his own kick into the in-goal area. The decision went to the video referee, who kept Leeds waiting for points as he ruled that Tomkins had grounded the ball before Sinfield.
Down at the opposite end of the field, Davies secured his second try of the game from another wide move, extending the Dragons’ lead to 28 points. Keighran’s fourth conversion of the game concluded the first-half scoring.
The Dragons continued their points spree in the second half, with a run by May leading to him setting up his partner Pearce for a try under the posts within four minutes of the restart.
Johnstone’s second try before the 50-minute mark took the Dragons to 40 points before Keighran increased his personal points tally for the night with his second try from a short kick-through from May.
An injury to Leon Ruan left Leeds with only three substitutes as the Dragons pushed the score beyond 50 points; Matt Ikuvalu crossed with 14 minutes remaining. In the dying moments, Tomkins added a drop goal, while Harry Newman was sent to the sin bin for holding down the Catalans full-back after a late break. Keighran’s hat trick try secured the win for the French side, and Tomkins added a penalty goal to seal the result as Lisone was sin-binned for illegally taking out Pearce.