For most of the season St Helens and Leeds have seemed certain to fill the top two berths in Super League. But yesterday's closely fought win for the Catalan Dragons over Hull means the French side now trail Leeds by just a point with seven games still to play.
The Dragons' coach, Mick Potter, remained coy about challenging the duopoly. "Obviously it's good to pick up the two points, but our for-and-against record puts us a further point behind Leeds."
Early on, Hull had dominated possession. But ill discipline meant they could not sustain pressure on the French team. And as the game wore on, the visitors played themselves into form. Hull paid the penalty in the 11th minute when the Catalans opened the scoring, Casey McGuire creating the chance for Oliver Elima to score next to the posts.
As the half progressed, Hull's error count kept growing while the Dragons' hooker McGuire bossed his side around the field. Just before the break, the Catalans doubled their advantage, when Justin Murphy stepped inside Gareth Raynor to score.
Jamal Fakir's 46th-minute try put further daylight between the two sides, but then Hull's Garreth Carvell started the fightback. He had been booed early on by the home crowd expressing their displeasure over his on/off contract negotiations. But that was forgotten when he scored in the 54th minute.
The French side suddenly looked fatigued, and Craig Hall should have scored when he broke from Hull's 20-metre line, but McGuire somehow got back to prevent the try two yards from the Dragons' line. Hull were making inroads into the French defence with each tackle, and when Shaun Berrigan scored in the 62nd minute, the outcome lay in the balance.
But a Younes Khattabi try in the left corner seemed to settle French nerves. Still Hull would not quite go away, and with eight minutes left on the clock Craig Hall dinked a kick over the Dragons' defence and Tom Briscoe scored in the corner. The added extras took Hull to within a converted try.
But as they have done so often this season, the Dragons refused to buckle and found a way to close out the game when Clint Greenshields superbly out-jumped Matt Sing to take a towering kick from Thomas Bosc to score with less than two minutes to go.
Hull's coach, Richard Agar, admitted his side had looked disjointed.
"We looked like a side that don't train very often together," he said.
Hull: Sing; Briscoe, Yeaman, G Horne, Raynor; Washbrook, Berrigan; Dowes, Houghton, Carvell, Manu, Tickle, Radford. Substitutes used: Thackray, Broughton, Wheeldon, Hall.
Catalans Dragons: Greenshields; Murphy, Wilson, Raguin, Khattabi; Mogg, Bosc; Chan, McGuire, Elima, Mounis, Fakir, Carlaw. Substitutes used: Casty, Ferriol, Touxagas, Quintilla.
Referee: I Smith (Oldham).Reuse content