There were fewer more important games in Round Twenty than the Leeds Rhinos against the Catalans Dragons. The Rhinos knew that a win would lift them off the foot of the table and possibly as high as ninth, whereas the Dragons are quickly slipping down the table after a four game losing streak.
An administrative mix-up meant that ex-skipper Kallum Watkins was unavailable for his farewell game while new signing from the mid-week swap-shop, Shaun Lunt was injured so all eyes were on Robert Lui as he pulled on the Rhinos stand-off jersey for the first time. The Dragons had a long injury list with McIlorum, Bird, Gigot, Whitley, Baitieri, Edwards and Tierney not making the journey.
There was unlikley to be much finesse as both sides scrapped nervously for the points.
Sam Tomkins held down Richie Myler after Sam Moa had lost the ball wth a wayward pass. Robert Lui went close and on the third tackle Adam Cuthbertson went over by the uprights. Liam Sutcliffe added the conversion, the Rhinos with the start that they had dreamed of.
A shocking error from Sam Kasiano, throwing an interception pass in his own twenty, gifted Tom Briscoe the easiest of walk in tries. Sutcliffe kicked the extra two, the Rhinos 12-0 ahead after fifteen minutes.
A Cuthbertson break and marvellous pass found Brad Singleton, just on the field as a substitute for Mikolaj Oledski, for a walk in try. Liam Sutcliffe added the conversion and the Rhinos were scoring at a point a minutes.
Samisoni Langi and Tomkins combined with the full-back putting in a tip pass to put Arthur Romano over to score their first try of the game. Tomkins added the conversion for 18-6, to settle the Dragons nerve.
There was little to choose between the two sides for the remainder of the first half, both bombing chances and both making mistakes.
Konrad Hurrell went close for Leeds at the start of the second half but it was the Dragons who scored the halves first points through a Tomkins try after a smart interplay with Brayden Wiliame. Tomkins converted his own four pointer and the trailing margin was down to six points with twenty-four minutes remaining.
Konrad Hurrell outpaced the Catalans defence to edge his side clear when he took a Briscoe pass after good work by Robert Lui. Scoring down the touchline he made the kick for Sutcliffe a difficult one, but the Rhinos kicker slotted the ball between the uprights for 24-12.
A Richie Myler drop goal on seventy minutes put the Rhinos three scores and thirteen points ahead at 25-12.
The icing on the Rhinos cake came through a Jack Walker try after an initial Cuthbertson break for the line. Sutcliffe added the conversion for 31-12, a much needed Rhinos win.
Another dreadful loss for the Catalans Dragons who are looking increasingly unlikley to make the top five and the play-off. For the Rhinos this was a much needed win and it lifts them off the bottom of the table and into ninth on points difference, four sides on equal league points at the bottom. It was still scrappy, with plenty of errors, but for now some relief at Headingley but some concern for the side travelling back to France.
Rhinos: Walker (T), Briscoe (T), Newman, Hurrell (T), Handley, Lui, Myler (DG), Cuthbertson (T), Dwyer, Oledski, Sutcliffe (5G), Ferres, Merrin. Subs: Smith, Donaldson, Albert, Singleton (T).
Dragons: Tomkins (T, 2G), Broughton, Mead, Wiliame, Romano (T), Langi, Smith, Kasiano, Da Costa, Moa, Jullien, Garcia, Casty. Subs: Bousquet, Simon, Goudemand, Maria.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas.