Betfred Super League Round 22
Leigh Leopards 14-30 Catalans Dragons
The Leopards Den at Leigh Sports Village was a party zone as a bumper 8,000 plus crowd celebrated the team’s Betfred Challenge Cup success.
A fan zone with three Lambos and the cup available for fans’ photos kicked off the day at 11am and long after the final hooter many of the crowd still lingered for more photos and swapped memories of an amazing week.
Dodgy were the latest band to grace the LSV stage and the Bedford High School marked their own appearance at Wembley in the Champion Schools Finals by parading the cup around the pitch.
The Leopards gave it everything, but it was party poopers Catalans Dragons who maintained their four-point lead at the top of Betfred Super League- but only after staging a second half revival after trailing 14-12 at the interval.
The Leopards were good value for that lead with tries by Tom Amone and Ben Nakubuwai and three Ben Reynolds goals.
Catalans, who had first half tries by Mitchell Pearce and Paul Seguier, had two players sin binned as their big, physical pack tried and failed to dominate the Leopards. Prop Mike McMeekin saw yellow early on and hooker Michael McIlorum added to the visitors’ disciplinary woes.
But as the emotions and exertions of the last week may have caught up with the Leopards, the Dragons took command in the second half.
Tries by Tom Davies, Tyrone May and Manu Ma’u earned the Dragons their third win of the season over the Leopards, who are now six points adrift of the top in fourth place. Adam Keighran kicked five from five. The Leopards dug deep in the final quarter, displaying great resolve, and tapping into their banks of energy to prevent any further scores but their attacking threat was now contained.
Dragons coach Steve McNamara took charge of the Dragons midway through the 2017 season when his side survived the Million Pound Game and preserved their Super League status by beating Leigh at LSV.
“That’s a tremendous effort against a very good team,” McNamara said. “We knew it was a dangerous game today after Leigh won the Challenge Cup a week ago. We were patient, strong and composed – this is a big, big win for us.
“Leigh have been very tough to play – six years ago we were playing them in the Million Pound Game. Suddenly we find ourselves battling it out at the top of Super League.”
The Leopards paraded the Challenge Cup after the game and had a team photo in front of the iconic North Stand. Their dream of a remarkable Cup and League double remains intact despite this defeat.
Leigh Leopards head coach Adrian Lam said: “I’m proud of the team and I don’t want to look at this as a downer. It’s been an enjoyable two weeks and in the second half you could see us a bit out of gas, but I don’t want to make any excuses as I’m really, really proud of the team.
“There are five games to go and there is still a lot to play for, so we just have to protect the players.”
Leopards captain John Asiata made his 200th career appearance and Robbie Mulhern was Player of the Match after another top performance in the front row.
Leopards: O’Brien; Briscoe, Hardaker, Gildart, Charnley; Reynolds, Lam; Amone, Mellor, Mulhern, Hughes, O’Donnell, Wardle. Interchanges: Nakubuwai, Asiata, Ipape, Davis.
Tries: Amone (20), Nakubuwai (40); Goals: Reynolds 3/ 3
Dragons: Tomkins; Davies, Keighran, Romano, Johnstone; May, Pearce; McMeeken, McIlorum, Navarrete, Whitley, Seguier, Garcia. Interchanges: Bousquet, Goudemand, Mourgue, Ma’u.
Tries: Pearce (25), Seguier (29), Davies (49), May (56), Ma’u (62); Goals: Keighran 5/ 5
Sin-bin: McMeeken (15), McIlorum (38)
Referee: Jack Smith; Half-time: 14-12; Attendance: 8,602.
Main Match Sponsor: Pave Automotive; Player of the Match sponsor: NutraPrep’s; Programme Sponsor: PSL Plumbing & Heating; Matchball sponsor: Astley Penny-Farthing