McGuire’s grand tries put Leeds in the final

Leeds Rhinos 27 Catalan Dragons 20
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The Independent Online

Leeds, the Super League leaders this season and champions for the past two, will defend their title at Old Trafford next Saturday after a display that showed why they are favourites to retain it.

Four tries in the 10 minutes on either side of half-time were ultimately too much for a Catalan side who looked distinctly dangerous before and after that, to recoup. Danny McGuire and Ryan Hall each scored two tries for the Rhinos, while the French resistance was summed up by the winger Vincent Duport, who weighed in with a hat-trick. The Catalans played a full part in a hugely skilful match, but there was never much doubt who was going to the Grand Final.

On the night when Leeds marked the passing of one of their great stand-offs, John Holmes, with as big a parade of former team-mates as Headingley can have ever seen, it was fitting that the man currently wearing the No 6 shirt should make an early impact.

After the Rhinos had been battered for the first 10 minutes, McGuire got his fingers to the ball to break up a Catalan attack. Brent Webb took it 60 metres upfield and McGuire threw a dummy of which Holmes would have been proud for the first try of the game.

Unfortunately, he was also implicated in the Dragons' immediate response, allowing Thomas Bosc's kick-off to bounce into touch. From the scrum possession, Adam Mogg took play across field for Duport to score.

The Catalans, despite scraping into the play-offs in eighth place in the Super League table, looked ominous every time they attacked. They were blown apart, however, by Leeds' brilliant burst of three tries in five minutes shortly before half-time. Leeds ran a penalty and Rob Burrow's pass sent Hall in at the corner. Three minutes later, the prolific wingman was over again, this time thanks to Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who was floored by Clint Greenshields' tackle but scrambled to his feet to supply the winning pass.

Leeds saved the best of their first half to the last, Scott Donald having the vision and skill to kick infield from his wing, for McGuire to time his run perfectly for his second try. It had been five minutes worthy of any champions.

Leeds carried that same brand of confidence into the second half, as illustrated by Kevin Sinfield's long, speculative pass which sat up obligingly for Donald to score. The Catalans were shell-shocked, although they got one back through Duport when they rediscovered their passing rhythm.

He even completed his hat-trick from Mogg's pass and Sinfield was sufficiently worried to take out the extra insurance of a drop goal, something that looked a good idea when Mogg went over with six minutes remaining.

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

Catalan Dragons: Greenshields; Duport, Baile, Raguin, Pelo; Mogg, Bosc; Ryles, McGuire, Guisset, Elima, Gossard, Bird. Substitutes used: Casty, Ferriol, Touxagas, Carlaw.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).