After Wigan and St Helens secured round twenty-six wins last night, the Catalans Dragons knew that they needed a home win, and a large one at that, to keep their hopes of a minor premiership alive as they took on the Leeds Rhinos who needed the win to maintain the slimmest of hopes that they could make the 2023 play-offs.
A win of any description would put the Dragons into second spot, while they needed an unlikely win by one hundred and twenty-nine points or more to regain top spot. A win for the Rhinos would keep their season alive, at least for a couple of hours until Hull KR took on the Salford Red Devils in the evening kick-off.
There was no doubting that the Dragons were strong favourites, the Rhinos likely to see an end to their 2023 hopes after the most inconsistent of seasons.
After a scrappy opening couple of minutes Tom Johnstone went down the left wing and found Adam Keighran in support to take the inside pass and score. Keighran added the conversion for an early 6-0 lead.
On eleven minutes Ben Garcia hit a Michael McIlorum pass at high speed and went in from two metres out for the second try of the afternoon, the Rhinos defence almost non-existent. Keighran added the conversion for 12-0.
It was all far too easy for the Dragons on fourteen when Sam Tomkins dummied a pass before a bullet pass to Tom Davies to score in the corner. Keighran converted from the touchline, the home side scoring at more than a point a minute, Leeds still on the plane.
The Dragons were in again on twenty-seven, Tom Johnstone on hand again for a simple walk-in try as the Dragons exploited a two man overlap thanks to a miss out pass. Keighran missed the conversion, his first-time off target.
Cameron Smith was helped off the field on thirty-one for a head impact assessment after a late hit and on the fourth tackle Jack Sinfield chased his own grubber which ricocheted off Mitchell Pearce ankles to dive on the ball, but despite sending the decision up as a try, the video referee ruled it out, Tomkins managing to ground the ball before Sinfield’s touch.
Three minutes before the interval Tom Davies took a no look pass from Ikuvalu to dive over in the right corner to ground before being bundled into touch. Keighran was in target again from the touchline for 28-0, the Dragons putting on a masterclass.
Tyrone May created the first try of the second half as he put Mitchell Pearce over the line from just a metre out, the Dragons scrum half simply having to drop over the line for the try. Keighran added the simple conversion for 34-0.
On forty-eight Johnstone weaved a path through the Rhinos defence for his second try of the game, scoring under the sticks. Keighran added the conversion to bring up the forty without reply.
A May grubber kick to the corner was collected by Keighran, already on his knees, the ground over the line. Keighran added the conversion for 46-0, the Rhinos being annihilated.
The half century was achieved on sixty-five minutes when Matt Ikuvalu took a cushioned pass to go through a big gap and score the ninth Dragons try of the game. Keighran kicked his eighth goal of the evening for a personal points haul of twenty-four.
Sam Tomkins kicked a drop goal on seventy-two after Mitchell Pearce had been held up just short of the line.
Harry Newman was sin-binned on seventy-five for a high hit of a grounded Tomkins. Within a minute a Tomkins chip kick was collected and grounded with ease by Keighran for his hat-trick. He added the goal to his own try.
Ten seconds from time Sam Lisone was sin-binned for tackling the kicker as he chased down the ball, Tomkins kicking the penalty goal for a for a final scoreline, a monumental 61-0.
The Dragons were in awesome form against an awful Leeds Rhinos side as they put them to the sword after dominating from the first whistle to the final hooter. Leeds season is now officially over, although most of the league knew that weeks ago. The Dragons, on the other hand, head into the play-off, likely in second spot, with their eyes on the prize of a Grand Final win at Old Trafford in October. And few would suggest that they won´t be at the showpiece event.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins (DG, G), Johnstone (2T), Keighran (3T, 9G), Ikuvalu (T), Davies (2T), Pearce (T), May, McMeeken, McIlorum, Navarrete, Whitley, Sequier Garcia (T). Subs: Bousquet, Do Costa, Chan, Ma’u. 18th Man: Romano.
Leeds Rhinos: Hooley, Fusitu’a, Newman (SB on 75), Handley, Olpherts, Martin, Sinfield, Oledzki, O’Connor, Holroyd, McDonnell, Gannon, Smith. Subs: Lisone (SB on 79), Johnson, Ruan, Donaldson. 18th Man: Edgell.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 16-0, 18-0, 22-0, 26-0, 28-0 : HT: 32-0, 34-0, 38-0, 40-0, 44-0, 46-0, 50-0, 52-0, 53-0, (SB), 57-0, 59-0, 61-0 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Catalans.
Referee: Ben Thaler.