|Betfred Super League|
|Leeds Rhinos (18) 31|
|Tries: Cuthbertson, T Briscoe, Singleton, Hurrell, Walker Goals: Sutcliffe 5 Drop-Goal: Myler|
|Catalans Dragons (6) 12|
|Tries: Romano, Tomkins Goals: Tomkins 2|
Leeds Rhinos moved off the bottom of the Super League table with a tense victory against Catalans Dragons.
Three tries in the opening 20 minutes from Adam Cuthbertson, Tom Briscoe and Brad Singleton put Leeds 18-0 up before Arthur Romano hit back for the Dragons before the break.
Sam Tomkins converted his own second-half try to get Dragons back to within six points with 25 minutes remaining.
Tries from Konrad Hurrell and Jack Walker, however, ensured Leeds’ win.
Victory came at the end of a week of substantial change for Leeds, which included two swap deals which saw Robert Lui join from Salford Red Devils as Tui Lolohea moved the other way, while Shaun Lunt returned to the club as Matt Parcell went out on loan to Hull KR.
While Parcell started for fellow strugglers Rovers in Thursday’s victory over high-flying city rivals Hull FC, Lunt was a late withdrawal for the Rhinos with a ankle injury.
Leeds, led out by Trent Merrin for the first time as Gold Coast Titans-bound centre Kallum Watkins was denied a send-off by NRL administrative rules, also left Ava Seumanufagai out on compassionate grounds as the forward returned to New Zealand for a few days.
While the Rhinos lost the pair for the visit of Catalans, earlier in the day they moved to bolster their ranks and survivals hopes by signing Rhyse Martin from NRL side Canterbury Bulldogs.
Consigning the out-of-form Dragons to a fifth successive defeat in all competitions was enough to lift Rhinos four places and up to ninth in the table on points difference – with all sides below them level on 14 points after 20 games.
Cuthbertson gave Leeds a strong start, forcing his way over from close range, but it took a try-saving tackle from Walker on Jodie Broughton to preserve their lead.
Briscoe added to the advantage with an intercept try before Singleton went over for Rhinos’ third score, getting on the end of a pop pass from Cuthbertson with his his first touch of the ball after coming on for Mikolaj Oledzki.
Romano hit back for Dragons just three minutes later, but they failed to again breach Rhinos’ defence in a tense first-half at Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Tomkins linked up with Brayden Wiliame to eventually grab Catalans second try before the hour.
Hurrell helped restore Leeds’ 12-point lead with 14 minutes remaining, with Richie Myler then slotting a drop-goal before Walker darted through a gap to complete the crucial victory.
Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar:
“I’m delighted with the win and the performance in the type of game that it was.
“I’m really pleased with the way our boys held together and came through the other side when it got tight.
“Two or three wins can get you viewed differently and a couple of defeats have you looking over your shoulder. Psychologically I don’t think we’ve been training or playing like a team that’s bottom of the league.
“But Hull KR don’t either, London keep surprising everyone. It’s game on.”
Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara:
“Obviously to go 18 points behind to a team that’s bottom of the league and lacking a bit of confidence, it gives them a real head start to the game.
“We’ve had a really poor month. We had a great month before that, we’ve had a really poor month now. We’ve got to find some rhythm and confidence back into our game.
“We’ll do that, we’ll keep working hard. It’s not a nice situation to be in. But we’ll turn it around.”
Leeds Rhinos: Walker; T Briscoe, Handley, Hurrell, Newman; Lui, Myler; Cuthbertson, Dwyer, Oledzki, Ferres, Sutcliffe, Merrin.
Replacements: Smith, Donaldson, Albert, Singleton.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins; Broughton, Mead, Wiliame, Romano; Langi, Smith; Kasiano, Da Costa, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Casty.
Replacements: Bousquet, Simon, Goudemand, Maria.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (RFL).