Rhinos charge gathers pace
Champions move to within one win of a return to Old Trafford
Last Updated: 21/09/12 10:16pm
Leeds remain in the hunt to retain their Super League title after battling their way to a 27-20 victory over Catalan in the south of France.
The play-off specialists had just too much knockout know-how for the Dragons, who suffered only their second defeat of the season on their home turf.
The Rhinos were behind on the hour mark before a close-range try from Carl Ablett nudged them ahead and they hung on to move to within one win of a return to Old Trafford.
The Dragons had suffered a record defeat in the first round of the play-offs at Wigan last week but looked a different side from the outset at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
They went ahead on just four minutes after Jamie Peacock's high shot gifted them field position and Clint Greenshields evaded three tacklers as he squirmed his way over.
Leeds were under the cosh for most of the opening half hour but atoned for a a series of penalties with some outstanding defence inside their own 20.
They finally got their chance to hit back on 34 minutes after Ian Henderson knocked-on and Gregory Mounis was penalised for holding down, Shaun Lunt's short pass sending teenager Stevie Ward crashing over. Kevin Sinfield added the extras and Leeds led 6-4.
That lead was 12-4 just a minute later after Rob Burrow's pass sent Jamie Jones-Buchanan racing up the middle and Lunt was on hand to take the pass and stroll in.
But the momentum swung once again on the stroke of half time. With Leeds pressing for another try, Damien Blanch took the gamble and came out of the line to intercept Danny McGuire's long pass and race 90 metres to score. Scott Dureau added the extras and it was a two-point game at the half.
The Dragons edged ahead eight minutes into the scond half as Gregory Mounis' offload and Dureau's crossfield kick set up Blanch for a brilliant take and score in the corner.
Back roared Leeds just past the hour as Sinfield's grubber from dummy half was touched down by Ablett.
From the kick-off Ryan Bailey charged and barged his way fully 60 metres before offloading to McGuire who raced in unopposed.
Still the Dragons were not done and after winning possession from their short kick-off, quick hands put Thomas Bosc in.
Catalan were pressing for a go-ahead score when Jamal Fakir foolishly raised an elbow as he charged the line, givng Leeds a chance to relieve the pressure.
Moments later the French forward gave away another penalty for a high shot and Sinfied's kick stretched the lead to six. An enthralling contest was over when McGuire knocked over a late drop-goal.
Leeds head home still hoping to repeat last year's feat of lifting the title from fifth place, although they will have to win at either Wigan or St Helens to earn a return to the Grand Final.