Catalans Dragons out, Pearce binned twice

·3-min read

Leeds have sent Catalans Dragons crashing out of the Super League play-offs with a stormy 20-10 victory, in a match ex-NRL star Mitchell Pearce would rather forget.

The Rhinos were rampant on an emotional day at Stade Gilbert Brutus, with a minute's silence held before kick-off and black armbands worn by players in respect after death of Queen Elizabeth II.

But there was little respect shown from either side to the other for the following 80 minutes in a brutal, niggling game lit up by a hat-trick of tries for Leeds centre Liam Sutcliffe.

Missing their suspended top points-scorer Rhyse Martin, Leeds - looking to win the Grand Final from fifth place in the regular-season table for a third time - were expected to struggle against a near full-strength Catalans side.

But they were totally dominant, especially early on with two tries from Sutcliffe and a blistering display at loose forward from Cameron Smith as they sealed a semi-final spot.

Catalans conceded a series of penalties, keeping the Rhinos on top for much of the first half, and a couple of scuffles increased the intensity of the game.

Dragons stand-off Mitchell Pearce was first to feel the wrath of referee James Child when he was sin-binned for his part in a melee.

Despite that, Catalans took the lead with a Sam Tomkins penalty in the 26th minute and he added a second four minutes later, but Sutcliffe responded with a try following some clever interplay with Richie Myler. Zak Hardaker's conversion pushed Leeds ahead 6-4.

Sutcliffe added a second try just before half-time when he mopped up a dropped kick and fell over the line to score, Hardaker again adding the conversion to make it 12-4 at the break.

The Dragons hit back on the first set of the second half when Pearce launched a lateral kick and Dean Whare was first to collect and score from short range, Tomkins converting to cut the gap to two points.

Substitute prop Sam Kasiano was punching holes in the Leeds defence, and the temperatures rose even higher when Michael McIlorum was sin-binned for a high tackle on James Bentley in the 60th minute.

Two minutes later Leeds took advantage of the extra man when Sutcliffe plucked Aidan Sezer's high kick from the sky to ground over the line for his hat-trick, Hardaker's conversion pushing the Rhinos 18-10 in front.

The flashpoints and flare-ups continued to the final hooter with gamesmanship from both sides trying to win penalties but Leeds' defence was rock solid as the Dragons threw everything at them with the clock ticking.

A red card for Catalans prop Gil Dudson for a head-butt on Sezer five minutes from time only added to the Dragons' woes as Leeds held on for a hard-fought win which will see their play-off rivals looking over their shoulders.

Then ex-NRL star Pearce followed Dudson to the dressing rooms after having harsh words with referee Child, who sin-binned him for the second time in the game. Hardaker converted the penalty to round off the scoring as Catalans, last season's runners-up, crashed out of the play-offs.

Child was pelted with plastic glasses and drinks as he left the pitch.

Dragons coach Steve McNamara said: "Frustration got the better of our players and we didn't handle the situation well enough.

"In the last 20 minutes we could have fought our way back into the game but our discipline let us down."