Harry Newman double inspires Leeds’ comeback win over Catalans Dragons
It is often said that teams are a reflection of their head coach and this never felt more true on a sun-drenched spring afternoon in Leeds. Rohan Smith is certainly enigmatic in the sense you never quite know what you are going to get from the Australian, be it in his dealings with the media or his brave decision-making, whether that is in regards to team selection, tactical or anything else.
Six weeks into the Super League season, his Rhinos side have all the hallmarks of a team who you just cannot second guess when it comes to performance. For 40 minutes, they were error-strewn and off their best, just as they were last week in defeat at Castleford. It was no surprise that Catalans led by 14 at the break and the smart money was on the Dragons making it six wins from six.
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That expectation only heightened when Harry Newman was sent to the sin-bin shortly after the restart. Catalans, you felt, would surely pull away at that point.
But Leeds, somehow, were spurred into life by being a man short, scoring twice in the 10 minutes Newman was off the field. They did not stop there and by full-time, they had scored 24 unanswered points, produced their best half of the season and inflicted a first defeat of 2023 on Catalans.
Unpredictable? That doesn’t even begin to describe this Leeds side under Smith. “At half-time I thought we were attacking well, we were troubling them – the score at half-time wasn’t a reflection of the game,” he said. “You’ve seen there that there’s a lot of belief in this group and they play when the opportunities allow.”
The Rhinos briefly led 8-6 in the early stages with tries from Newman and Rhyse Martin but as the first half wore on, Catalans moved through the gears. After Tom Davies scored their first try, Adam Keighran moved the Dragons back ahead before Mitchell Pearce scored their third of the afternoon.
An error from Martin then allowed Paul Séguier to make it 22-8 and given the balance of play, it was a scoreline few could argue with.
When Newman was shown yellow for dissent, it seemed inevitable Catalans would pull away from Leeds. Instead, the Rhinos upped their game. “We were clearly the second best side in that second half,” the Catalans coach, Steve McNamara, said. “We lost momentum of the game and Leeds took full advantage.”
He was not wrong. By the time Newman returned, Richie Myler and Jarrod O’Connor had crossed for tries to narrow the deficit to six.
Blake Austin was central to both of those tries and he was integral in the move that led to Leeds’s fifth as the outstanding half-back broke from deep before teeing up Derrell Olpherts. Crucially, Martin missed all five attempts at goal, meaning Leeds still trailed by two.
But they were not behind for long. After Austin kicked a 40-20, his deft pass freed Tom Holroyd to move Leeds ahead and as Catalans pushed to snatch victory in the final moments, an instinctive break from Myler was ably supported by Newman, who atoned for his earlier sin to score his second and put the cap on an impressive comeback from the Rhinos.