Leeds 48-8 Catalans Dragons: Ash Handley scores two tries as 12-man Rhinos continue to rise
Dragons missed chance to tighten their grip on a play-off place
Last Updated: 09/08/19 10:55pm
Twelve-man Leeds took another huge step towards Super League safety with a 48-8 rout of Catalans Dragons.
Winger Ash Handley celebrated his new three-year contract with two of the Rhinos' seven tries, taking his tally for the season to 19, as they continued their impressive form to pull four points clear of bottom club London Broncos.
Former Catalans scrum-half Richie Myler also touched down twice against his old club and second-rower Rhyse Martin contributed 24 points with a try and 10 goals from 10 attempts.
The game was in the balance, with the Dragons trailing only 16-8, when prop Brad Singleton was sent off for a high tackle 10 minutes into the second half yet the red card only served to galvanise Leeds, who went on to score three tries in a decisive 13-minute spell.
Leeds also had centre Konrad Hurrell sin-binned for a dangerous tackle but it was the Dragons who paid the price for some awful discipline and, after this heavy defeat, they could find themselves out of the top five by the end of the weekend.
Catalans, who were already without former Wigan duo Sam Tomkins and Michael McIlorum following last Saturday's ill tempered clash with Warrington in Perpignan, finished the game with 12 men after winger David Mead was sin-binned for a late tackle.
A downpour greeted the teams as they ran out at a completely refurbished Headingley and the wet conditions clearly hampered the visitors, with Arthur Romano and Tony Gigot both spilling the ball deep inside their own half.
Leeds, on the other hand, were almost immaculate in the opening quarter as they breezed into a 16-0 lead.
A towering kick from stand-off Robert Lui was allowed to bounce and Hurrell leapt over the touchline to palm the ball back for Handley to dribble ahead and score his first try.
Martin, who has been improving with every game since his arrival from Sydney just over a month ago, then brought the crowd to its feet with a storming 50-metre solo try.
The Papua New Guinea international converted both tries and also kicked two penalties to punish the Catalans' early indiscipline.
The visitors' discipline briefly improved and so did their handling as the rain dispersed and they pulled a try back after 32 minutes when Gigot produced a half-break to get substitute second-rower Mickael Goudemand over.
Gigot added the conversion and kicked a penalty just before the interval to make it 16-8 after Hurrell was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Catalans makeshift half-back Greg Bird.
The Rhinos briefly lost Lui with a head knock early in the second half but their 12 men stood firm until Hurrell came back from the bin.
No sooner had they been returned to their full complement, however, Leeds were reduced to 12 again and this time for good as Singleton saw red for a swinging arm on Catalans prop Sam Kasiano.
The incident energised the home side and they went further ahead within three minutes as Handley touched down Lui's grubber kick for his second try and the game was up for the Catalans when Myler touched down Brad Dwyer's kick for his side's fourth try.
Martin kicked both conversions and, as the Catalans once more lost their discipline, added a third penalty to extend the lead to 30-8.
It was all Leeds in the final quarter as Lui followed up Dwyer's kick to score, Myler finished off a break by full-back Jack Walker for his second and winger Luke Briscoe added the Rhinos' seventh.
Man-of-the-match Rhyse Martin was impressed by how the Rhinos kept Catalans scoreless in the second period.
He said: "We had 12 players for the second half there, and the attitude and the energy that we had was unbelievable. To get the win like that so late in the year is a credit to the players.
"We've been trying to work on this the last couple of weeks. We lacked energy and execution at times this season, but we showed it tonight. The boys made it easy for me tonight and I've been working hard on my kicking so it's good that it's coming off."
Catalans coach Steve McNamara was deeply unimpressed with the manner of his side's defeat at Headingley.
He said: "It was horrible from us in the second half. When they had a man sent off it looked like it was us who were down by a man, we just didn't compete from that point in.
"We fought our way back into the game, and our defence was woeful in those last 20 minutes. There's no excuses. We will get back to France and regroup. There's lots of twists and turns still to go, there's someway to go yet."
Leeds interim coach Richard Agar was delighted with his side's work rate - but admits there is still work to be done in order to preserve the club's 25-year stay in the Super League.
He said: "I thought we did really well in the first 30 minutes given the conditions. We had the sin-bin and then the sending off but we showed great confidence with the man down, and it says a lot about the group at the moment.
"Our new signings have helped us, but it's been a collective effort after some tough conversations. We won't rest until it's mathematically certain we're safe."