McNamara expects a different Rhinos’ challenge on Friday

Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara is hoping for a different Dragons’ performance on Friday following a “difficult victory” at Headingley.

It’s déja-vu for Leeds Rhinos, who travel to Perpignan this week hot on the heels of an 18-26 home defeat to Super League’s table-topping French side, but McNamara isn’t relying on a repeat performance.

“We need to sharpen up and learn the lessons of that first half,” he told League Express.

Catalans were 18-8 down at half-time, but recovered in the second half to secure a club-record eighth straight Super League win.

“Of course I’m pleased we won, but we can’t play like that again on Friday or it could be a different result completely,” he added.

“We learned to win again in yet another different way, but I don’t think we were great, particularly with our defence in the first half.

“We conceded far too many metres and the ruck was too loose for us, so we got caught and it wasn’t looking good at half-time, we were on the back foot ten points down with a man in the sin-bin.

“I was interested to see how we would react, because it was a very different position for us to be in so far this season.

“So I am really pleased that the team put on such a composed second-half performance and responded in such a positive manner.”

McNamara expects the repeat fixture against Leeds this week to be a totally different game.

“We caught Leeds after a busy run of fixtures and I’m sure they will have some fresh bodies back this week and they’ll be ready to go.

“They caused us lots of trouble in certain areas on Friday and we’ve got to look at that in training this week.

“We start from scratch, we forget Friday’s result and we prepare for the next challenge.”

Friday’s clash is the first of a three-match home run for Catalans and McNamara is keen to keep to winning ways to reward the club’s supporters.

He said, “We’ve been on the road a lot this year, the stats say we’ve played 14 games and eleven of them have been away, so to get back on home soil is a great feeling.

“Over and above the obvious travel challenges, we now have the chance to play in front of our supporters, partners and sponsors. These people have been desperate to see us play and it’s important that we perform for them.

“We’ve been doing well away from home, but we have to keep those same standards when we turn out at Stade Gilbert Brutus.”

McNamara will have hooker Michael McIlorum back from injury for Friday’s game, while prop Gil Dudson returns from a one-match suspension.

He added, “It’s good to have these two back because we’ve got a lot of bumps and bruises from the Leeds game.

“It was extremely tough, as expected, and we took some heavy knocks. Julian Bousquet couldn’t return to the field in the first half, then we lost Jason Baitieri, and Matty Whitley got hurt, so we had to dig deep.

“It might be a different-looking team that turns out on Friday night.”

And the coach is delighted by the renewed contracts for captain Ben Garcia and winger Tom Davies, both of whom have signed on for three more years in Perpignan.

He said, “Both Ben and Tom epitomise what we want from Dragons players, they are both very professional, fully committed and outstanding leaders within the group.

“We’re delighted that they have decided to stay, signing long term contracts which give them some stability and also stability for the club.”

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