|Catalans Dragons (18) 26|
|Tries: Davies, Langi, Folau, Mead Goals: Maloney 5|
|Leeds (6) 14|
|Tries: A Sutcliffe, L Sutcliffe, Hurrell Goals: Martin|
Catalans Dragons booked a Super League semi-final play-off against St Helens next Friday as their first-half blitz proved enough to beat eight-time champions Leeds Rhinos.
Sam Tomkins enjoyed a starring role at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, classily setting up tries for Tom Davies, Samisoni Langi and Israel Folau.
Alex Sutcliffe and Liam Sutcliffe cut the deficit either side of half-time.
But David Mead’s try killed it despite Konrad Hurrell’s Leeds consolation try.
James Maloney landed all four conversions for Catalans before his late penalty finally stretched the French side out of sight to seal their eliminator play-off victory and reach the last four for the first time since 2014.
Leeds were missing head coach Richard Agar and assistant coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who were both forced to self-isolate at home in line with Covid-19 protocol following a positive test on the coaching staff.
The Rhinos were also done no favours when Catalans forward Michael McIlorum was lucky to stay on the park after drawing blood from Brad Dwyer’s nose – a challenge missed by both the referee and the video officials.
They were also hampered by the loss of both Mikolaj Oledski and Ava Seumanufagai to head injury assessments. But, by then, most of the damage had been done by a sensational Catalans start.
Dragons boss Steve McNamara was unhappy that his side did not have home advantage, as the game had to be switched from Perpignan, but that only helped fire his side up to perform – no more so than the younger of Catalans’ two Tomkins brothers.
Catalans win made in Wigan
Catalans’ opening try in Warrington was very much made in Wigan as two of the clutch of Warriors old boys in the Dragons line-up combined for the first of their two quickfire early converted tries inside eight minutes.
Sam Tomkins – so often a thorn in Leeds’ side in the past – gained possession close to his own goal line before going over half the length of the field, then offloading to his left to prolific winger Davies, who galloped over.
Six minutes later, the French side had doubled their lead – and again the in-form Tomkins was the architect, with a neat grubber kick, which Langi devoured to score.
After James Maloney added the two points, the Australia international then almost set up a third Catalans try when, capitalising on Mead’s 50-yard break from close to his own line, his clever crossfield kick almost got Davies in again at the right corner.
But, on 31 minutes, Leeds were breached again. From the irrepressible Tomkins’ up and under, Folau jumped highest, twisted in the tackle, then stretched out over the line.
Leeds got back in it with tries either side of the break from Alex Sutcliffe and Liam Sutcliffe. And, at only 18-10 down, Rhyse Martin having missed the second of his conversion attempts, came a key moment.
McIlorum, another of Wigan’s old boys, escaped punishment for a swinging left forearm on Dwyer which caused the Leeds man’s temporary exit – but may not go unpunished next week.
And it was pretty much game over when winger Mead galloped in at the left corner, Maloney adding the extras, before Hurrell’s quick unconverted reply was responded to by the last of Maloney’s five kicks.
Catalans now face a semi-final rematch with Saints, who they beat at the same last-four stage in the Challenge Cup ‘en route’ to a famous Wembley win in 2018.
Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara:
“I knew we were ready to play. I could sense it from the moment the decision was made to stop the season and go straight to the play-offs. You could see a marked difference, there was clarity for everyone.
“I was really pleased with the first half but at the back of my mind I was concerned about the second half, having played only one game in six weeks and with four guys who haven’t played for four weeks.
“And, although the second half was scruffy, we did enough to win the game. We needed that game to move onto a bigger challenge next week and we’ll be a whole lot better for the run.”
Leeds director of rugby Kevin Sinfield:
“It hasn’t been easy but there’s no excuses from us. We understand there are set laws we have to abide by. Unfortunately we had to do it tough without them but Rich has been across all our sessions this week and put a detailed plan together.
“It did cause a little bit of disruption but that’s not the reason we lost the game. We gave ourselves too much to do. In play-off rugby you can’t give yourself an 18-0 mountain to climb.
“Then losing Ava and Mikolaj made it really tough, especially against a big Catalans side. Our effort was outstanding. They had a real go but we gave too much ball away. Our skill was off and we made some errors at crucial times that invited Catalans to attack us.”
Catalans: S Tomkins; Davies, Folau, Langi, Mead; Maloney, Drinkwater; Bousquet, McIlorum, Casty, J Tomkins, Whitley, Garcia.
Interchanges: Moa, Seguier, Baitieri, Kasiano.
Leeds: Myler; T Briscoe, Hurrell, L Sutcliffe, Handley; Lui, Gale; Seumanufagai, Leeming, Oledzki, Thompson, Martin, Prior.
Interchanges:Dwyer, Smith, Donaldson, A Sutcliffe.
Referee: Chris Kendall.