Folau, Maloney star in Dragons Super win

Ian Laybourn
·2-min read

Israel Folau scored a try and James Maloney kicked five conversions as Catalans Dragons moved within 80 minutes of a maiden grand final after defeating 26-14 in Friday's sudden-death tie at Warrington.

Defending champions St Helens now stand in the way of Steve McNamara's French side in next Friday's semi-final after the Dragons held off a battling fightback from the injury-hit Rhinos.

Former Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins was the architect of an early onslaught that enabled the Catalans to establish an 18-0 lead but they were forced to show their defensive mettle to hold onto their hard-won gains.

If the Dragons are to realise their dream, it will mean another two trips to England but, after playing only three matches at home since the resumption of the season in August, that will not worry a delighted McNamara.

It was, however, an excruciating experience for Leeds head coach Richard Agar, who was forced to watch the game on television from his home after self-isolating due to COVID-19 protocols.

With assistant coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan similarly confined, James Webster and Sean Long were in charge while Agar sent messages down a hotline to director of rugby Kevin Sinfield.

And it would have been a painful watch as the Challenge Cup winners lost both front row forwards Ava Seumanufagai and Mikolaj Oledzki with head injuries before half-time.

The Dragons, on the other hand, looked full of energy for most of the game, not surprisingly after playing just one game in the last five weeks, and they made a fairytale start.

Tomkins had defenders grasping at thin air when he scooted away from dummy half inside his own 20-metre area and his former Wigan team-mate Tom Davies raced up in support to finish off the move with his 13th try of the season.

The England international then put in a neat grubber kick for centre Samisoni Langi to double the lead after seven minutes.

Towering Australian centre Israel Folau then leapt into the air to gather Tomkins' high kick and used his immense strength to force the ball over the line for the Dragons' third try.

Former Penrith Panthers star James Maloney kicked his third conversion to make it 18-0, before Leeds launched a spirited comeback with tries to substitute Alex Sutcliffe and Liam Sutcliffe.

The Rhinos pounded away at the Catalans line but it looked a hopeless cause when winger David Mead picked off a pass from Leeds stand-off Robert Lui to go in for his side's fourth try.

The Rhinos kept themselves in contention with a 67th-minute try from Konrad Hurrell but Rhyse Martin was wide with the conversion attempt and Maloney put two scores between the sides with a penalty.