Leeds Tykes belied their position near the foot of the Guinness Premiership with a stirring display in France last night but were edged out in a nail-biting game by Perpignan.
David Doherty finished off a stunning first-half try while Gordon Ross added a penalty as Leeds threatened to pull off a shock victory over the 2003 Heineken Cup finalists.
But a second try late in the game by Samueli Dawai Naulu denied the Tykes a first-ever win away from home in this competition.
Leeds had braced themselves for a fierce Perpignan backlash at the infamous Stade Aime Giral. The Catalans were incensed at the nature of their 21-20 defeat at Headingley last week when the Welsh referee, Nigel Owens, allowed Ross to retake his last-minute conversion after Perpignan had encroached on his first attempt.
And matters looked ominous for the Tykes when Dawai Naulu caught his own chip over Andre Snyman and scorched over for the opening try after just six minutes.
But Leeds roared back into the game with a sensational try of their own. Ross broke free from inside his own 22 and galloped upfield before finding Snyman on his shoulder. The former Springbok drew in the last defender before sending full-back Doherty over.
Ross missed with the conversion, but it was clear that the Tykes had rattled their hosts, who are second in the French Championship, and the Scot kept his cool to convert a penalty on 26 minutes as tempers flared. That shock one-point lead could have been extended on the stroke of half-time but Ross saw his long-range effort drift wide.
Leeds withstood the expected firestorm at the start of the second half as Perpignan emerged with genuine purpose. Yet it was not until after the hour mark that they regained the lead, Manny Edmonds reacting quickest to a loose ball and kicking upfield. Dawai Nuala gathered possession and had only one man to beat to reach the line.
However, Leeds remained in contention as the game entered the final quarter after Nicolas Laharrague missed the conversion and a penalty but could not find that winning touch in a final fling.
Perpignan: M Edmonds; M Bourret, N Laharrague, J Grandclaude, S Dawai Naulu; R Pez, N Durand (capt); P Freshwater, M Konieck (M Tincu, h-t), N Mas (V Debaty, h-t), 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).Reuse content