Shoddy Leeds hand the prize to Paris

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Paris are the unlikely winners of European Pool B in the World Club Championship, following Leeds' abject failure to round up the Cowboys at Headingley last night.

Leeds never recovered from a disastrous spell before half-time when they literally threw away one try and conceded two through shoddy defence. In the second half, they fell apart to allow North Queensland to gallop away irretrievably.

All the teams in the pool finished with one victory, but Paris's superior points difference means that it is they who will play off against the fourth-placed team from Pool A for the right to go to Australia for the quarter-finals.

The first points of an absorbing arm wrestle of a first half came in controversial circumstances. Leeds had already been fortunate when a North Queensland hand on the ball gave them another set of tackles and the chance to apply more pressure. When they did so, Gary Mercer ploughed his way over from dummy half, a combination of John Skardon and Martin Locke ripping the ball out illegally to concede a penalty try.

The Cowboys were furious, but channelled their anger in the right direction to equalise almost immediately, Andrew Dunemann twisting his way around and between a series of inconclusive tackles to get over the line.

Graham Holroyd's penalty put Leeds back in front, but the Cowboys hit back when John Doyle's long pass sent in Ray Mercy. Three minutes later, Dunemann's pass sent Reggie Cressbrook through some more poor tackling, Luke Phillips' third goal giving North Queensland a 10-point interval lead.

After North Queensland had a try disllowed for a knock-on, there followed the most gripping period of the game so far, Leeds probing and battering at the Cowboys' line and being repulsed every time until Adrian Morley took Mercer's pass to charge over, Holroyd adding the goal.

Justin Loomans was within inches of going over in the corner to put North Queensland back in control, but then their aerial bombardment paid off again, Phillips beating Paul Sterling and Damien Gibson to the ball for the try that restored their confidence.

The impressive Dunemann then dummied his way through to set up Glen Murphy, and got away from Leeds yet again for his own second. Phillips, who kicked eight goals, also grasbbed a second try as Leeds faded badly, Mark Shipway delivering the final blow.

Leeds: Gibson; Sterling, Cummins, Hassan, Golden, Holroyd, Sheridan, Massella, Collins, Mathiou, Morley, Hay, Mercer. Substitutes used: Harris, Rivett, Newton, Farrell.

North Queensland: Cressbrook, Loomans, Bowman, Mercy, Phillips, Skardon, Duneman, Buttigeig. Walters, Locke, Scott, Cunningham, Warren. Substitues used: Jones, Murphy, Doyle, Shipway.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).