Opposition Profile: Catalans Dragons

Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com - 15/08/2020 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - Wakefield Trinity v Catalans Dragons - Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens, England - Catalans' Samisoni Langi celebrates his try with Fouad Yaha and Josh Drinkwater.

For only the fourth time in Betfred Super League history, Leeds Rhinos and Catalans Dragons meet in the Play Offs this Friday at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, kick off 7:45pm.

Find out more about Steve McNamara’s side below:


Overview

Since the Super League season resumed in August, Steve McNamara’s side have been in impressive form.

James Maloney and Josh Drinkwater’s half back pairing has brought balance to the side that ended 2019 in poor form. Sam Tomkins, Tom Davies and Fouad Yaha have proved threats across the field; Davies and Yaha finishing among the top try scorers in the League. Israel Folau has also spent little time settling back into the 13 man code and proved a key threat on the edge to help the Dragons finish in the top four for the first time since 2012.

Tom Davies recorded a hat trick against a young Rhinos side when the Dragons travelled to Emerald Headingley in September. He finished the regular season as the third highest try scorer in Super League behind Ash Handley and Bevan French.

Wins against Castleford, Hull FC and Salford Red Devils in February and March showed particularly the class of Maloney; the Australian international and State of Origin star scoring points in each of Catalans matches before the shutdown.

In spite of a 34-6 demolition at the hands of the Champions St Helens on their return to action in August, the Dragons won their next three games to send them top of the table on win percentage. As was the case with a number of clubs since the restart, positive COVID tests cut the Dragons season short; a final defeat to Salford ending any chance of Catalans moving out of fourth place.


Last Time Out

Catalans finished the regular season with a disappointing 42-24 defeat to Challenge Cup Finalists Salford Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium. Returning to action for the first time since the start of October, the Dragons would be assured a home tie with a win but the Red Devils had other plans, overturning tries from Catalans’ Paul Seguier, Tom Davies and Sam Kasiano thanks to a hat trick from former Dragon Krisnan Inu. David Mead added a consolation try in the final minute as Steve McNamara’s side lost their fifth game of the season.


Key Players

SAM TOMKINS

Position: Full Back

Three time Grand Final winner (2010, 2013, 2018)

Only 14 points away from achieving 1000 Super League points (213 for Catalans and 773 for Wigan)

Made the most clean breaks out of any Dragons player with 13 (10th in the League)

Bio: Revitalised with the success of spine players Maloney, Drinkwater and McIlorum this season, full back Tomkins has the experience and ability to help Catalans get to their first Grand Final. He finished the regular season in the top ten for try assists and also scored five tries himself so will be one man Steve McNamara can rely on to deliver on the big stage.

SAM KASIANO

Position: Prop

Hit 200 career appearances last week against Salford Red Devils

2020 Average Gain per carry: 9.26

NRL Premiership runner up in 2012 with Canterbury Bulldogs

Bio: The New Zealand international joined the Dragons seven rounds into 2019 and made his debut against the Rhinos in Perpignan. Prior to joining Catalans, Kasiano played most of his NRL career with Canterbury Bulldogs, winning the Minor Premiership in 2012 and went on to play in the Grand Final that year. He joined Melbourne in 2018 but joined Catalans after making 15 appearances under Craig Bellamy.


Catalans’ Previous Five Play Off Matches


Previous Play Off Matches

Since the Dragons arrived in Super League in 2006, they have reached the Play Offs six times. Finishing third in the 2008 season, Catalans welcomed Warrington and Wigan to the Stade Gilbert Brutus in that year’s Play Offs, defeating the Wolves 46-8, thanks to four tries by Justin Murphy, but fell short in the elimination semi final against the Warriors; the men in Cherry and White setting up a meeting with Leeds with a 50-26 win over Michael Potter’s side.

Following a 25-16 win over Wakefield at the start of the 2009 Play Offs, the Dragons set up their first meeting with Leeds at Emerald Headingley but the three time Grand Final winners proved too good on that occasion; two tries each from Danny McGuire and Ryan Hall in the first half finishing the game before half time as Brian McClennan’s side progressed to Old Trafford with a 27-20 result.

Three years later, the Rhinos became the latest team to travel to Perpignan to face Catalans. Unlike at Emerald Headingley, the first half was tightly contested as Clint Greenshield’s early try for the Dragons was replied to by Leeds’ Stevie Ward and Shaun Lunt. Damian Blanch kept the home side in the match with tries either side of half time (the winger’s first being an impressive length of the field effort) but the experienced Rhinos showed their prowess as Carl Ablett and Danny McGuire added further tries to seal a 27-20 result.

On their way to lifting the Super League trophy in 2012, Leeds became the first team to defeat Catalans in a Play Off match at the Stade Gilbert Brutus

The French outfit soon took revenge against Leeds in 2014 in one of the Play Off’s biggest shocks. Tries from Leeds’ Carl Ablett and Kallum Watkins, plus a Zak Hardaker penalty goal, helped the home side to a 14-6 lead but the Dragons fought back thanks to tries from Zeb Taia and Louis Anderson. Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s short drive at the line looked to have won it for Leeds going into the last ten minute but Sam Williams broke Rhinos hearts, diving on a miss pass near the try line to make history for the Catalans.

The Dragons went on to beat Huddersfield Giants by two points in the preliminary semi finals to set up a meeting with St Helens and move one step away from Old Trafford but the League Leaders ended Catalans’ season with a 30-12 win.

Previous Play Off Matches vs Leeds

Leeds Rhinos 20 Catalans Dragons 24 (Elimination Play Off, 20/09/2014)

Catalans Dragons 20 Leeds Rhinos 27 (Preliminary Semi Final, 21/09/2012)

Leeds Rhinos 27 Catalans Dragons 20 (Qualifying Semi Final, 02/10/2009)


Head to Head


Record against the Rhinos

Today’s match marks to 36th Super League meeting between the two sides, which includes the three Play Off matches Leeds and Catalans have played against each other.

Leeds have the superior winning record with 23 wins both home and away. Eight of those have come on the road and as this Friday’s game is classed as a Dragons home game, it will also be the second time the Dragons have hosted Leeds in the Play Offs; the Rhinos winning the first clash 27-20 in 2012. On top of the three regular season wins prior to the 2012 Play Off victory, the Rhinos won three times consecutively at the Stade Gilbert Brutus between 2013 and 2015, including a seven try blitzing in the Treble year as Leeds walked away with a 38-22.

Sam Tomkins will be one of the most experienced players on the field this Friday.

Catalans’ record both at home and away has only improved over the last four years, winning six games since 2016. They won both matches against the Rhinos for the first time in 2016 before going on to repeat the feat again in 2018; Kenny Edwards scoring a late try at Emerald Headingley to help the Dragons to a 28-25 result. Catalans also recorded their highest win on the road against Leeds this season as Tom Davies’ hat trick helped overcome a young Leeds side 34-6.


Team News


Last Play Off Game Against the Rhinos

Catalans got their first ever Play Off win over the Rhinos at Emerald Headingley 2014 thanks to a last minute Sam Williams try.

The Canberra loanee kept the visitors in the match early on, levelling the scores after Carl Ablett’s try on 15 minutes.

A penalty from Zak Hardaker and try from Kallum Watkins put the home side back into the lead at half time but the Dragons refused to give in; Zeb Taia and Louis Anderson crossing the try line to keep the French outfit in the match.

Despite Jamie Jones-Buchanan scoring for Leeds going into the final ten minutes, Williams stole the show, latching onto a fumble near the Leeds line to score the deciding try.