Click on the images below to read Jonathan’s reflections on England’s rugby league Test series against New Zealand for Forty20 magazine’s November issue
Leeds Rhinos 46 Catalans Dragons 10
Jonathan Doidge at Headingley Carnegie
When you have just succumbed to a record Super League defeat, you probably don’t much care how your next two points are won so long as they come quickly. This, an eventual runaway success for Leeds, was achieved the hard way for the most part, before a welcome flourish. They deserved this and should rightly gain in confidence from it.
A surfeit of first half penalties stymied many attempts to fashion opportunities and rendered the contest impotent in terms of momentum.
Led forward by the industrious Matt Parcell, whose try took the game away from the Dragons just as they were threatening to get right back in it before the break, the Rhinos played with purpose.
Most of the good stuff that the home side managed to string together in between the sound of the whistle was, in part, down to Parcell, while Adam Cuthbertson was also very effective, bagging a couple of well-earned tries.
There was a much greater feeling of structure about the team, both in attack and defence. Others of significant influence were Joel Moon and Jimmy Keinhorst, while Danny McGuire grabbed his first try in competitive action since the 2015 Grand Final.
Jordan Baldwinson got a first start for the home side, while Carl Ablett was back from suspension and the team were better for it. Rob Burrow’s return from illness was not too taxing, the veteran getting the final 25 minutes and having the desired impact, both creating and scoring.
Catalans tried going route one, hitting the home side down the middle and appearing reluctant to use much in the way of width. Their kicking game was probably better than the Rhinos’, with Walsh causing more problems with what went aerial from his boot than anything that Leeds could muster.
However, otherwise there was little imagination from the Dragons’ attack, especially after the loss of Greg Bird, who was hit late by Singleton in the first-half and had to have seven stiches in his head as a result, so missing the entire second half. Jodie Broughton also sustained a bicep injury.
“I thought they were really good. It thought we handled a real difficult night extremely well,” said Rhinos coach Brian McDermott of his charges.
“We were up against it weren’t we. Down to 11 men at one stage and we showed real commitment to each other.”
On the subject of the officiating, the coach chose his words carefully. “I’m caught between saying something which I very tame and then just saying that there’s not much point. If you were to look at the penalties I would say that every one of them was a penalty. I don’t disagree. But it’s not the version of rugby league we’ve been playing for four rounds and that’s all I’d say.”
“Regardless of last week it’s just good. I’ve been our biggest critic of our offense so far and some of that has started to click, so we don’t go by the usual mundain repetitive attack that I think you see in some teams in Super League.
“I thought the pack were great,” he added. “Jimmy Keinhorst was outstanding again. Joel Moon played in the pivots and was very effective. Danny McGuire looked in control of everything and that’s great to see.
“I thought Adam Cuthbertson was the difference again. He’s getting back to his best. He’s one of those blokes that when you take him out of our team we’re a lesser version in attack of what we’d like to do and put him in it and he’s a big part of what we do.
“This tonight doesn’t write off last week. It still hurts. We are still embarrassed by it. I’ve got the best job in the game and part of that best job in the game is dealing with the losses. When we lose everybody cheers and when we win it’s oh Leeds should win. It throws up some real challenges and tonight was a good night but we’ve got to knock about another 10 versions of tonight together over the next few weeks.”
Catalans counterpart Laurent Frayssinous was not happy with his team’s approach to the contest.
“(I am) Disappointed with the result and disappointed with the attitude we brought tonight,” he said. “Leeds wanted it more than us in every department. There were some signs in the first half defensively that we were not ready for a big battle.
“We conceded 40 point in three games and tonight we conceded more points than we did in three games so that’s disappointing. Offensively in the first half we won the ruck. When we carried the ball strong we had a bit of support and fight on the ground but defensively we were not on our game.”
Leeds led 14-4 at the break, Cuthbertson taking a parcel offload five metres out to set the scoring in motion, with Sutcliffe’s conversion and a further penalty, awarded against the Dragons for dissent, giving them an eight point lead.
Amid all of that, Singleton was put on report for flying in late on Bird, while shortly after Sutcliffe’s penalty goal, Golding did well to hold Justin Horo, who had picked up the ricochet when Walsh’s bomb came back off the posts and had looked like scoring.
The penalty frenzy continued apace, with Cuthbertson taking a 10-minute sabbatical for a professional foul, and after a team warning against Leeds, Keinhorst also had an enforced breather for holding down.
The pair’s time off the field overlapped by about a minute, giving Catalans time to ship play left on the back of the penalty and score through Brayden Wiliame.
Back to 12 men, Parcell did well to hold off three men on the way to scoring his try, after exchanging passes with Cuthbertson, and when Keinhorst threw and dummy and hit the gas to score six minutes after the break, it looked as though that was probably that.
However, Richard Myler’s suspect-looking pass was carried over for a try by Julian Bousquet which gave the Frenchmen hope, with Walsh’s conversion making it 20-10. That was where the fun ended for Frayssinous’ men, however, as Leeds came home in a style that had appeared unthinkable eight days earlier.
Keinhorst intercepted Walsh’s pass to scatter the defence, Burrow sending Cuthbertson over for a second try on the next play. Then the diminutive number seven zipped through just inside the Dragons’ half and scorched away to score under the posts.
Keinhorst was at it again just two minutes later, making a break down the left before drawing full back Bosc and sending McGuire over. Sutcliffe then got on the end of a Burrow grubber to complete the scoring, adding a total of nine goals from as many attempts.
1 Ashton Golding 8
2 Tom Briscoe 7
3 Kallum Watkins 7
4 Joel Moon 8
5 Ryan Hall 7
6 Danny McGuire (C) 7
14 Liam Sutcliffe 7
10 Adam Cuthbertson 9
9 Matt Parcell 8
16 Brad Singleton 7
18 Jimmy Keinhorst 8
12 Carl Ablett 7
24 Jordan Baldwinson 7
21 Josh Walters 6
7 Rob Burrow 8
20 Anthony Mullally 6
15 Brett Delaney 6
Tries: Cuthbertson (8, 58), Parcell (36), Keinhorst (46), Burrow (65), McGuire (67), Sutcliffe (77)
Goals: Sutcliffe 9/9
16 Thomas Bosc 6
2 Jodie Broughton 5
18 Vincent Duport 6
4 Brayden Wiliame 6
21 Ian Thornley 6
6 Luke Walsh 7
7 Richard Myler 6
20 Luke Burgess 6
9 Paul Aiton 7
10 Remi Casty (C) 6
15 Ben Garcia 6
12 Justin Horo 6
13 Greg Bird 5
Subs (all used)
11 Louis Anderson 6
14 Julian Bousquet 7
17 Jason Baitieri 7
23 Alrix Da Costa 6
Tries: Wiliame (30), Bousquet (50)
Goals: Walsh 1/2
Referee: James Child
HT: 14 – 4
Man of the Match: Adam Cuthbertson (nearing his best again and two tries to boot)
Weather: Mild, dry
Match rating: 3/5