Perpignan 12 Leeds 8: Davies delighted as youth give Leeds fighting chance

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The Independent Online

Leeds Tykes are showing every intention of fighting on two fronts this season despite expectations to the contrary.

Phil Davies' men are rooted to the foot of the Guinness Premiership, yet at Perpignan they pulled out of the bag what Davies described as one of their "best ever performances".

The Catalans were incensed at the manner of their 21-20 defeat at Headingley the previous week. They had not, however, accounted for Leeds' sheer grit on the road.

A sensational try by David Doherty, created by Andre Snyman and the stand-in captain Gordon Ross, who also kicked a penalty, looked to have given Leeds a rare away victory at Stade Aimé Giral until the home side's Fijian wing Samueli Dawai Naulu pounced for his second try.

But the bonus point has kept Leeds in contention for qualification, with only five points separating the top three teams in Pool Two.

"We've given ourselves a great chance of progressing in this competition, but we've now got the biggest three games of our lives over the next three weeks, games which could decide our season. That is all we are focusing on now," Davies said.

"We're now in a position where we have plenty to play for both at home in the Premiership and in Europe. The Heineken Cup is everything to me, which is why our ranking in the domestic league is so important."

That make-or-break period is actually more like five weeks, with Premiership games against Newcastle, Gloucester and Bath before matches against Calvisano and the Cardiff Blues that could send Leeds into the last eight of the Heineken Cup for the first time.

"Given those games we were obviously wary of taking too many risks with players in Perpignan. However, it was good to expose some of our younger players to such an intimidating atmosphere," Davies said.

"I thought we defended very well and showed a high level of commitment. The guys did very well to get back on their feet after conceding the early try so we were about as pleased as you could be after a defeat.

"We've always prided ourselves on our fitness. Perpignan really needed to win for lots of reasons and all credit to them for doing so. But perhaps more credit should go to us for going all the way to the end."

Perpignan: Tries Dawai Naulu 2; Conversion Laharrague. Leeds: Try Doherty; Penalty Ross.

Perpignan: M Edmonds; M Bourret, N Laharrague, J Grandclaude, S Dawai Naulu; R Pez, N Durand (capt); P Freshwater, M Konieck (M Tincu, 40), N Mas (V Debaty, 40), C Gaston, N Hines, G le Corvec (V Vaki, 65), S Robertson (G Bortolaso, 65), O Tonita.

Leeds: D Doherty; A Snyman (C Bell, 51), R Vickerman, C Jones, T Biggs; G Ross, J Marshall; M Cusack, G Bulloch, G Kerr (R Gerber, 45), S Morgan, T Palmer (capt), J Dunbar, R Reid, N Thomas.

Referee: H Watkins (Wales).

* The former France captain and coach Jacques Fouroux died from a heart attack on Saturday, aged 58. Fouroux, known as le petit général, won 28 caps at scrum-half for France from 1972 to 1977 and captained the side to a Grand Slam in 1977.

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