Catalans (20) 38
- Tries: Sa, Dureau, Casty 2, Duport, Millard
- Goals: Dureau 7
Leeds (12) 34
- Tries: Lunt, Watkins, Hall 2, Keinhorst, Jones-Buchanan
- Goals: Sinfield 5
A late rally from Leeds was not enough to stop the Rhinos sliding to defeat against Catalan Dragons.
Setaimata Sa, Scott Dureau and Remi Casty crossed for the hosts, with Shaun Lunt and Kallum Watkins going over for Leeds to make it 20-12 at the break.
Vincent Duport and Casty again helped Catalans take a 20-point lead.
Two Ryan Hall tries and another Jimmy Keinhorst effort prompted a fightback, but Daryl Millard's try meant Jamie Jones-Buchanan's score was academic.
The Rhinos' Challenge Cup final opponents Warrington chose to field a severely weakened team at London Broncos on Friday and were
duly thumped 62-18.
It looked like this game could go a similar way after Catalan opened up an early 18-point lead with Sa, Dureau and Casty all going over in the first quarter of the game.
Dureau, who converted all six Catalans tries on the day, added a penalty on 36 minutes after Leeds had held Eloi Pelissier down in the tackle.
That penalty sandwiched two Leeds efforts, Lunt going over after good work by Watkins, while the latter kept the Rhinos in the hunt, crossing 20 seconds before the half-time hooter after a big assist by Zak Hardaker.
Kevin Sinfield converted both tries to send the sides to the interval at 20-12.
After the break, the Catalans turned the screw in the stifling heat as Leeds tinkered with their side, trying different players in different positions given their mini-injury crisis ahead of their Wembley showdown.
A smart break by Damien Blanch, supported by Clint Greenshields, gave the Dragons' field position before Sa's neat kick behind the Leeds defence was pounced on by Duport.
Catalan captain Casty then scored his second try of the match, with Dureau converting again to give the hosts a 20-point lead after an hour.
But Hall scored with 15 minutes to go and with the next set of possession, Leeds scored again through youngster Keinhorst. Sinfield converted both to reduce the deficit to eight points.
With seven minutes remaining, Stevie Ward went on a dancing run across the front of the Catalan defence and sent the ball out to Hall, with the England winger picking the ball up and scoring in the same movement.
But Catalan would seal the game with a superb try. Blanch and Greenshields combined to give Dureau the platform to put in a measured kick in behind the Leeds defence and Millard touched down.
There was just time for Leeds to send Catalan hearts racing with a try two minutes from time after Lunt's break but, while not worrying about the loss, Rhinos boss Brian McDermott will be concerned after prop Ryan Bailey was put on report a week out from the Warrington game.
The Rhinos are already definitely without influential half-back Danny McGuire, who has been
ruled out with a knee injury.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Catalan Dragons coach Trent Robinson:
"Everybody wants to pick up those two points and it was important, after two losses, for the team to win again.
"Some of the things in our defence were disappointing and we made some dumb choices, but we saw some attack today that we haven't seen in nearly four weeks from us.
"At this stage of the season, it is about keeping the plays that you like and replacing the plays that you don't.
"It was a tense time for us at the end, we got the scores and then they got the chance to come back at us again and again and again, even in the last few minutes."
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott:
"We had a couple of blokes with bumps and bruises out there so we were forced into making some positional changes like we did.
"We would have preferred to have played back home this week, so coming here was not ideal.
"But the positives are that we came through injury free and found a way of getting back into the contest, which I was most pleased with because in the first half we weren't in the contest.
"There are some simple factors of rugby league, one of which is that you have to run harder than the opposition most times to win a game and Catalans just ran a little bit too strong for us in the first half and we didn't deal with them.
"I just thought the players made a decision to get back into the contest and that is something we can hang our hat on."
Greenshields; Blanch, Duport, Millard, Pala; Pryce, Dureau; Ferriol, Henderson, Casty, Sa, Anderson, Baitieri
Mounis, Raguin, Pelissier, Fakir
Hardaker; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Ablett; Hall, Ward; Sinfield, Leuluai, Lunt, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Bailey
Kirke, Clarkson, Moore, Keinhorst