Leopards outclassed by table topping Dragons

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Photo Credit – Adam Clarke

Catalans Dragons reclaim a four point buffer at the top of the Super League table after running in five try’s against the Challenge Cup winners in a 14-30 win.

The sides walked out to fireworks and right past the Challenge Cup trophy in classic Derek Beaumont style. There was a huge roar from the Leigh faithful, who were on cloud nine after last weekend’s glory.

The Leopards had the early chances, twice finding themselves near Catalans’ line in the opening 10 minutes. They looked dangerous with ball in hand and were finding overlaps fairly regularly.

However, the firsts points of the game were to come on the third occasion that Leigh challenged the Catalans line, and from the boot of Ben Reynolds who converted a penalty kick in the 15th minute.

Catalans forward Mike McMeeken was shown a yellow card for a late tackle on John Asiata, and sat down for 10 minutes.

Just a few minutes later, the hosts took full advantage of the extra man and created a huge gap through the centre of the pitch. Prop Forward Tom Amone showcased some fantastic athleticism for a big man, striding through the gap untouched to cross the white line for the afternoons first try.

At this point Leigh were on a roll and their fans were in fine voice. But Catalans aren’t top of the table for no reason, and they hit back hard in the space of five minutes.

Their first try came in the 24th minute from absolutely nowhere. Mitchell Pearce had the ball in hand with no options left or right, so he subtly rolled the ball forwards off his boot, before chasing it over the try line to touchdown for a superb solo effort.

Five minutes later the Dragons hit the front on the back of some shoddy defence. Enforcer Paul Seguier ran hard onto the ball but ended up trampling over the top of the Leopards defenders to turn the game on its head.

Just when it seemed the half would fizzle out, The Dragons were shown another yellow card for a late and high challenge in the 38th minute. It was Michael Mcilorum who was ordered off the field to the jeers of the frustrated Leigh fans.

The yellow gave Leigh another chance to attack 12 men, and yet again they managed to break the Dragons. Drive after drive they battered the line from close range, but it was Ben Nakubuwai who picked the ball up from dummy half and powered his way to the four pointer, giving the Leopards a narrow half time lead.

Both Adam Keighran for Catalan and Ben Reynolds for Leigh were perfect with the boot in the first half. With the game only separated by one penalty kick. It stood at Leigh 14-12 Catalans.

The second half action started immediately, Catalans crossed the line after one minute but were unable to properly ground the ball. However, the warning signs were there for Leigh.

In the 49th minute and coincidently just after Mcilorum’s return from the sin-bin, the French outfit did take the lead again as the pendulum swung once more. The ball was shifted out to the right hand side before a small grubber kick was delivered to the corner flag, where flying winger Tom Davies was there to ground the ball safely.

Six minutes later the visitors opened up a two score buffer when the 2024 departing Tyrone May broke free from the clutches of Zak Hardaker, to race away untouched.

In the 62nd minute Leigh were once again undone by a shift out wide followed by a grubber kick in behind. This time though it was Sonatane Ma’u who got to the ball first and grounded. Keighran continued his 100% conversion success.

Leigh never really recovered from the loss of momentum, and the game slid away from their grasp and right into the palms of Catalans early into the second 40. It was a scoreless second half for the Leopards who didn’t really show much attacking threat.

With only minutes to go in the game over 8,000 Leigh fans were still in fine voice and willing to cheer their players home. The game fizzled out slowly, but both sides were determined not to concede any more points, showcasing some strong defence in the process.

Photo Credit – Adam Clarke

When asked for his opinions on the game Catalans boss Steve McNamara said;

“Today was a good experience for us, things weren’t going our way early on and this side have just won the Challenge Cup. Leigh is always a strong test and I cant speak highly enough of them.

“We were patient and composed and after our chat at halftime we came out and had an excellent second half.

“I think the sin bin calls were tough, we have to apply pressure on teams when they come that hard at our line. But we came out the right side.”

Leigh coach Adrian Lan had this to say;

“I was pretty proud of the boys today, we tired towards the end of the game but we were here to win, so we can’t use a hangover from last week as an excuse.

“Catalans’ scrambling defence was outstanding, I think if we’re playing any other team today we score another three try’s.

“They’ve now beaten us three times this year but we have been there or there abouts in every game. I think it shows just how far we’ve come that I’m disappointed about losing to top of the league.”

Catalans will now be very strong favourites to win the league leaders shield, but they do have a tough test against Wigan Warriors next weekend. As for Leigh, they remain fourth and in a very good position for play-off rugby. They travel to Hull KR next Friday.

 

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