A Liam Sutcliffe hat-trick saw Leeds Rhinos gain a crucial 20-10 play-off win over Catalans Dragons as they take a crucial step towards the Grand Final. Steve McNamara’s side were made to rue their ill-discipline as three yellow cards and one red cost them at key moments during the match.
But Sutcliffe was ruthless when it came to the key moments and his three tries proved to be the difference for an in-form Leeds side that have now won eight of their last nine matches. From the off, Rohan Smith’s side got on the front foot.
Leeds moved the ball quickly early on as the home fans grew frustrated. The visitors looked like they had capitalized on that early pressure as Aidan Sezer forced his way through two challenges and grounded the ball but after a long look from the video official, the try was ruled out due to double movement.
Catalans looked to be lacking sharpness having essentially missed a week, after sending the kids to Wigan on the final day for a dead rubber encounter. Instead of looking refreshed, McNamara’s men were second best for the opening period.
Leeds came from behind against Castleford to get into the playoffs and showed that fighting spirit in a game that threatened to spill over at times. After a scuffle on the floor, Mitchell Pearce went in hard with a late shove to break up the disagreement involving notorious hard man Michael McIlorum and was then shown a yellow card, which tested the French side.
However, Catalans did get the first score of the game, a penalty after a silly offside. The rampaging Sam Kasiano then knocked out Sam Cannon as the young Leeds star attempted to stop the big man, but fortunately Cannon got back on his feet, but was deemed unfit to continue.
Another Leeds offside allowed Sam Tomkins to double Catalans lead but Leeds hit back with the first try of the night. A stunning one two between Liam Sutcliffe and Richie Myler saw Sutcliffe bag his eighth try of the season as he raced clear. In July, in that memorable 36-32 win on this ground, Sutcliffe was a try scorer and Catalans must be sick to the back teeth of the Leeds utility man.
Just before the break, Sutcliffe got on the end of a last tackle kick after a defensive howler from Dean Whare saw him gift the second try of the night to the 27-year-old. Zak Hardaker added the extras and at half-time, they went in with an eight point lead, 4-12.
Whatever McNamara said at the break clearly had an instant impact as Pearce kicked in-field and Whare made up for his mistake by climbing highest to bring the score back to 10-12.
That try inspired the hosts on as they pushed forward while tempers flared after a couple of high tackles. When Michael McIlorum saw his swinging arm catch a Leeds man round the neck, he was unsurprisingly shown a yellow card.
From there Leeds managed to get a hold on the game and another high kick saw Sutcliffe bag his hat-trick. It was the only real bright spark on a shabby night, especially for the hosts. It ended with Gil Dudson being sent off and Pearce being sin-binned again, as the referee struggled to keep control of the game.
It was an ill-tempered clash with several flair points, but Leeds Rhinos progressed to the semi-finals with a 20-10 win.