Opposition Overview: Catalans Dragons
Picture by Laurent Selles/Catalans Dragons /via SWpix.com. Rugby league Super League Season 2021. Catalans Dragons Media Day player head shots portraits -
For their third match in ten days, Leeds Rhinos return to Emerald Headingley to take on the league leaders Catalans Dragons on Friday night, kick off 7:45pm.
The match will be available for Season and flexi members to watch for free exclusively on the OurLeague app, as well as on Sky Sports Arena. Ahead of the match, here is a look at our opponents:
2021 so far..
Currently sat at the top of the Super League table, Catalans Dragons have set the benchmark with ten wins in eleven games.
Following a Play Off semi final finish in 2020, the Dragons are continuing to flourish under head coach Steve McNamara, who has taken the club from Qualifiers survivors to Super League contenders and Challenge Cup champions. Coming into 2021, despite losing Israel Folau, Catalans added experienced Super League forwards Gil Dudson and Mike McMeeken to their ranks, as well as New Zealand international Dean Whare.
Although they made a shaky start to the new season, beginning with a golden point extra time win over Hull KR in round one and then a 24-8 defeat to Warrington, the Dragons bounced back to win their last seven league games, including back to back wins against the champions St Helens and Wigan. The latter result against the Warriors was resounding as nine tries saw Catalans down the five time Super League champions 48-0; Sam Tomkins and Michael McIlorum scoring against their former club.
After surviving a late fight back against Leigh, the Dragons, who were now top of the Super League table, extended their winning streak by beating Castleford 16-6 and then Huddersfield last Thursday 50-12. Unlike Leeds who played on Monday, the Dragons come into this game with an extra week off. After demolishing a young Huddersfield side at the John Smith’s Stadium, Catalans’ scheduled clash with Hull KR was called off due to a Covid outbreak in the Robins’ camp.
Last Four Fixtures
Rapid winger Tom Davies knows what it takes to score tries and since his move to join the Dragons from hometown club Wigan, he has been a consistent performer under McNamara.
A Grand Final winner in 2018 with the Warriors and Shaun Wane, Davies made the move to Catalans in 2020 and instantly settled alongside Samisoni Langi and former team mate Sam Tomkins. In his first season, he finished the campaign with twelve tries (three of which he scored against Leeds at Emerald Headingley) and third place in Super League’s top tryscorers. This season, he has replicated that form with eight tries in ten appearances so far and is also Catalans’ top metre maker.
Catalans head coach Steve McNamara is one of the most experienced coaches in the game to date and is getting results from his Dragons side after five seasons in charge.
Born in Hull, McNamara was picked up from local club Skirlaugh by Hull FC and played seven years in black and white from 1989 to 1996. For the start of the summer era, he transferred to Bradford Bulls and played in a couple of finals under Matthew Elliott, including the 1997 Challenge Cup and 1999 Grand Final. He also represented both Great Britain and England between 1992 and 1999 before he closed out his playing career with spells at Wakefield Trinity and Huddersfield in the new millennium.
He moved into the backroom staff with Bradford for 2004 but in 2006, with Brian Noble’s move to Wigan, McNamara was promoted to head coach and got the Bulls to a third place finish in his first season. As the club fell down to finish tenth in the league by 2010, he took over control of England on a full time contract, later guiding them to the World Cup semi finals in 2013.
Moving down to the NRL to be assistant coach under Trent Robinson at Sydney Roosters and then at New Zealand Warriors in 2017, McNamara made a shock return to Super League to save Catalans from relegation at the end of the 2017 season. A year later, he guided the club to its first major silverware by beating Warrington in the Challenge Cup final and although 2019 saw a blip in form, last season the Dragons were back at their best, earning themselves a Play Off semi final spot by beating Leeds 26-14.
There is only one player in Leeds and Catalans’ current squads that has featured for both squads; that being Richie Myler.
A two time Grand Finalist and winner of the Challenge Cup in 2012 with Warrington, Myler made the switch to the south of France after six years at the Wolves. In his first season, alongside Luke Walsh, he helped the Dragons to finish in the Super 8s before a year later, he was part of the side that survived the Million Pound Game against Leigh Centurions to retain their Super League status.
He signed for Leeds in 2018 and helped the 2017 Grand Final winners also come through the Qualifiers and finish second behind Salford. Despite a shaky 2019, which was stabilised by Richard Agar, Myler went on to be one of Leeds’ stand out stars in the 2020 campaign, transitioning to full back with ease as well as picking up his first piece of silverware in the Challenge Cup; a game in which he was awarded the Lance Todd man of the match. After suffering a finger injury against Salford, he could be back in contention for Friday’s clash.
Last Game vs Leeds at Halliwell Jones
The last time Catalans visited Headingley, Leeds were also preparing for a semi final clash in the Betfred Challenge Cup so named a young side. Seven players made their first team debuts for Richard Agar’s side but they couldn’t stop a dominant Catalans side, that took away a 34-6 win thanks to a first half hat trick from Tom Davies.