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Page last updated at 21:15 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 22:15 UK

Leeds 27-20 Catalans

Leeds (22) 27
Tries: McGuire 2, Hall 2, Donald Goals: Sinfield 3Drop-goal: Sinfield
Catalans (4) 20
Tries: Duport 3, Mogg Goals: Bosc 2

Leeds Rhinos mascot celebrates victory

Highlights - Rhinos bore battling Dragons

By Phil Dawkes

Leeds Rhinos booked their place in the Super League Grand Final with a hard-fought win over battling Catalans.

Danny McGuire and Catalan's Vincent Duport traded scores early on.

Leeds crossed for three scores in a four-minute burst before half-time, Ryan Hall going over twice before McGuire grabbed a wonderful second try.

Scott Donald's try and a Kevin Sinfield drop goal for Leeds held off the brave Dragons, who did add three tries, with Duport completing his hat-trick.

Both sides - joined by the great and good of Leeds' recent past - observed an immaculate minute's silence for Leeds and Great Britain legend John Holmes who died last week, but this respectful display for one of the club's record appearance-holder proved to be the calm before the storm.

The Dragons hit the ground running, fuelled by the insinuation of inferiority made by Leeds' selection of them as "ClubCall" semi-final opponents.

Twice they broke the Rhinos defensive line early on but on both occasions their eagerness to keep the ball alive cost them as misplaced passes allowed Leeds to regroup.

And when Thomas Bosc misplaced a pass near the Leeds line - with some assistance from the unseen hand of McGuire - Brent Webb collected and ran well into Dragons territory before being held up.

With the Rhinos now in firing range they made no mistake and it was McGuire who pulled the trigger, throwing a wonderful dummy before jinking inside and over near the posts, giving Sinfield a simple job with the conversion.


However, the following kick-off evaded McGuire and bounced into touch and Leeds paid the price as from the resultant play Mogg glided across the front of the Rhinos defence before finding Duport to go over in the corner.

Two points continued to separate the sides though as Bosc failed with the conversion.

In another Rhinos assault a deft, well-disguised kick from McGuire had the Dragons defence scrambling and Lee Smith would certainly have scored had his fragile grip on the ball not betrayed him.

With half-time approaching, Dragons coach Kevin Walters would have been pleased with his side's work, but there is a reason Leeds finished top of the league this season and, in a four-minute burst of pace, power and precision, 6-4 became 22-4.

From a penalty for a high tackle on Matt Diskin the resulting play allowed the lively Rob Burrow to float a superb pass out wide to Hall who was allowed to run home unchallenged for his 30th try of the Super League season.

A minute later Hall had 31 when Jamie Jones-Buchanan broke from a Sinfield offload and looked to be going over himself before an ankle tap forced him to hand final responsibility to the winger.

However, these were merely the hors d'oeuvres for what was to be a true illustration of the champions' class.

Former teammates tribute for John Holmes
Friends and ex-teammates of the late John Holmes hold a minute's silence

Sinfield threw a superb long pass wide for Donald who carried the ball before kicking a pinpoint high kick that was met by McGuire, who did not have to break his stride in collecting and powering on to and over the line.

Within moments of the restart Leeds added to the scoreline and again it was a long wide pass from Sinfield which found Donald who had only to find the wide gap in the visitors defence to score.

The Dragons refused to lie down though and, with help from poor defending and a series of errors from Leeds, the next two scores were the visitors, both coming from Duport as the winger sealed his hat-trick.

Firstly, he was the recipient of a quick off-load from Sebastien Reguin that set him up in the right-hand corner and then, from a scrum, Mogg drew in the Leeds defence with an angled run before spreading wide for Duport to go over in the same spot.

Such was Leeds' growing concern at the visitors scoring potential, when they next found themselves in Dragons territory, Sinfield was happy to claim a drop-goal to widen the gap beyond two converted tries.

Leeds were grateful to the extra cushion from that point when Mogg was able to find space to jink beyond a lax Leeds defence to score a try that was converted by Bosc.

With the victory, Leeds have secured a record-equalling sixth Grand Final appearance and keep alive their hopes of a first-ever hat-trick of Super League titles, but despite defeat Catalans can be proud of their efforts in reaching their first league semi-final and pushing the champions close.

Leeds coach Brian McClennan:
"That was a tough match. They were good and dominated for long periods.

"We hold our hands up and say we didn't go as well as we could have but we got the job done.

"It was a really good hit out, what we needed, now we're really excited about next week."

Catalans coach Kevin Walters:
"I don't think we took our opportunities but I thought Leeds' defence was very good. Leeds are a good side and they showed that tonight.

"That little spell before half-time was a bad one for us.

"I still thought even at half-time we were still in the game. We fought back well in the second half but not quite well enough."

Leeds: Webb, Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield.
Replacements: Bailey, Kirke, Burgess, Worrall.

Catalans Dragons: Greenshields, Duport, Raguin, Baile, Pelo, Mogg, Bosc, Ryles, McGuire, Guisset, Elima, Gossard, Bird.
Replacements: Ferriol, Carlaw, Touxagas, Casty.

Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury).

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see also
Highlights - Rhinos beat battling Dragons
04 Oct 09 |  Rugby League
Rugby league mourns legend Holmes
27 Sep 09 |  Leeds
Leeds choose Catalans in play-off
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Leeds 44-8 Hull KR
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Huddersfield 6-16 Catalans
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Play-offs are flawed, says Wilkin
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