Opposition Profile: Catalans Dragons
Picture by Laurent Selles/Catalan Dragons/via SWpix.com - 15/02/2020 - Rugby League - Super League - Catalans Dragons v Castleford Tigers - Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan - France - Catalans' Sam Tomkins is congratulated by James Maloney on scorings a try against Castleford.
Coming off the back of consecutive wins against Hull KR in the Betfred Super League and Coral Challenge Cup, it’s two games in four days for the Rhinos, starting with the visit of Catalans Dragons to Emerald Headingley on Wednesday night, kick off 6pm.
Let’s take a closer look at Wednesday’s opponents:
Catalans could be set to finish in the play-offs for the first time since 2012, but since the restart, there have been mixed results for the French side.
Three wins in their first four matches in February and March showed the Dragons to be serious contenders before lockdown stopped rugby league on both sides of the channel. Half back signings Josh Drinkwater, who is in his second spell with Catalans, and James Maloney have gelled into a strong attacking spine with Sam Tomkins and Michael McIllorum and have provided the likes of Samisoni Langi, Tom Davies, Israel Folau and Fouad Yaha plenty of scoring opportunities.
On their return to action five months after lockdown, a 34-6 demolition by St Helens at Emerald Headingley was soon forgotten about as Steve McNamara’s men produced an impressive 40-14 result against Castleford Tigers; Folau a standout for Catalans. Hat tricks from second rower Matt Whitley and winger Tom Davies a week later helped the Dragons to a 58-0 win over Wakefield but defeats to Wigan and Warrington have since pushed Catalans from first to fifth in the table on win percentage.
Last Time Out in Super League
Catalans missed out on the chance to close the gap with the top four, losing 30-16 to Warrington Wolves. The Dragons almost didn’t make kick off after their plane was diverted but put up a challenge in the first 40 minutes; Tom Davies and Samisoni Langi scoring tries as both sides went into half time at 12 all. Despite Fouad Yaha’s try on 59 minutes, the Wolves kicked on to take the two league points; Matty Davis, Blake Austin and Danny Walker scoring the tries.
Position: Half Back
2020 Super League Goals: 34 (5th overall)
Two time NRL Premiership Winner (2013 and 2016)
Former Clubs: Melbourne Storm, New Zealand Warriors, Sydney Roosters, Cronulla Sharks, Penrith Panthers
Bio: A seasoned NRL player who has experience at both international and Origin level, Maloney was an exciting capture for Catalans in the off season. The two time Premiership winner has looked comfortable alongside Josh Drinkwater and Sam Tomkins in the spine of Catalans attack and his goal kicking ranks in the top five of Super League so far.
2020 Try Assists: 4
NRL Appearances: 92
Australian Rugby League and Rugby Union International and Queensland representative
Bio: Even though he missed the start of the season, Folau has wasted little time in settling back into Rugby League. It had been nearly ten years since the centre last ran out in the NRL but he has been a valuable addition to the Dragons’ squad, scoring two tries and playing a part in four others.
Only 15 League meetings have been played at Emerald Headingley between Leeds and Catalans but they have proved eventful nonetheless.
When the Dragons joined Super League for the first time in 2006, the match against the two sides in Leeds saw the Rhinos finish their season on a high, scoring ten tries against Catalans. Jordan Tansey crossed the try line three times for Leeds while fellow youngster Danny Williams got two scores in the 60-12 win, which is the highest result any Leeds side has recorded against the Dragons.
Over the next nine years, Leeds would remain undefeated against Catalans at Emerald Headingley, notably winning 54-8 in 2007, 52-6 in 2010 and 30-6 in 2011. One of the most memorable clashes during that winning streak was in 2014 as Catalans pushed for their first win at Headingley. Having lost only once in ten games, the Dragons looked to be extending their Play Off hopes a Morgan Escare’s drop goal gave the French outfit a 31-30 lead with minutes remaining, but an obstruction from the Dragons’ defence gifted Liam Sutcliffe the chance to win the match from 30 metres out; a chance that the half back executed as the Rhinos won 32-31.
More recently, after Catalans had won twice at Headingley in 2016 and 2018, the two sides met two times in the 2019 season. The Rhinos were struggling in a relegation battle but two wins over the Dragons helped Leeds stay in Super League; Rob Lui impressing on debut as the home side won 31-12 win in June before Rhyse Martin score 24 points in a 48-8 demolition.
Previous Meetings at Emerald Headingley
Record against the Rhinos
Out of the 15 League matches played between the two sides at Emerald Headingly in history, Catalans have only won twice. Their first came in 2016, thanks to a late Eloi Pelissier interception try sealing a 24-12 victory, and was the first season that the Dragons won both home and away fixtures. They repeated that feat again in 2018, edging Leeds to a 28-25 result at Headingley.
Leeds have won both fixtures against the Dragons on six occasions (2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017) and also remained unbeaten at Emerald Headingley from 2006 to 2015, scoring over 390 points. From 2009 to 2014, winger Ryan Hall recorded a try in every meeting at Emerald Headingley between the two sides in the regular season, including a hat trick in 2010.
Both sides have met three times in the Play Offs. Leeds have won two of those fixtures, at Headingley in 2009 and at the Stade Gilbert Brutus in 2012. Both results ended 27-20, with Danny McGuire scoring tries in both matches. The Dragons’ only play off win came in 2014; Sam Williams crossing for the game clinching try despite replays suggesting the half back was offside.
Head to Head
Last Game Against the Rhinos
A try and ten goals from Rhyse Martin helped Leeds beat Catalans at Emerald Headingley for a second time in 2019. The Papua New Guinea international had only played five times since his arrival from Canterbury Bulldogs but he shone in the August sunshine, scoring a brilliant break away effort. Ash Handley kept up his try scoring recored with two more while former Dragon Richie Myler also recorded a brace. Luke Briscoe and Rob Lui also got on the scoresheet as the Rhinos made it back to back wins in Super League.