Catalans Dragons charged back into the Super League’s top two with a 61-0 humiliation of woeful Leeds in Perpignan.
Adam Keighran ran in three tries and kicked 18 points with the boot as Steve McNamara’s men made a huge statement with one round of the regular season remaining.
A youthful Rhinos side, still reeling from last week’s 50-0 thrashing by Wigan, were second-best in all areas again on Saturday evening and saw their faint mathematical hopes of booking a top-six berth ruthlessly exposed.
In contrast, Catalans head to Salford next week knowing another big win is likely to secure them a top-two slot and with it, a single home match in their quest to reach a second Grand Final.
Rohan Smith, who would later describe the match as “a real low point” for his side, saw his players wilt as early as the third minute in the 30-degree heat when Keighran rounded off a 30-metre move involving Tom Johnstone before converting from the touchline.
Then hooker Michael McIlorum slipped a short ball to put his captain Ben Garcia in close to the posts, Keighran converting to make it 12-0 after 12 minutes.
Three minutes later, Tom Davies struck on the right after more good work from McIlorum. Keighran curled the conversion in from the right touchline, bouncing it over on the crossbar.
Jack Sinfield was denied a response for an incorrect grounding and Catalans swept down the other end where Davies touched down for his second and Keighran added another touchline kick to make it 28-0 at half-time.
Mitchell Pearce, Johnstone and Keighran’s second – all converted by the Wigan-bound star – stretched the Catalans lead before Matt Ikuvalu benefited from great work from Garcia to bring up the hosts’ half-century.
Sam Tomkins stuck the boot in with a cheeky drop goal seven minutes from time as Catalans sought to squeeze out every spare point with one eye on the potentially crucial points difference in the final table.
Moments later the former England captain broke on an unlikely sprint to the line but he was halted by Harry Newman, who received a yellow card after a scuffle.
The game was wrapped up when Keighran scored his hat-trick and converted once again for a record Super League defeat for the Rhinos.
Sam Lisone was sin-binned for a late tackle as the final hooter blew and Keighran added the penalty, rounding off another day to forget for the Rhinos, whose final game of the season against Castleford next Friday is now rendered academic.
“This is a real low point but it is professional sport and it happens,” Smith said. “We had a really young team out there tonight and it was always going to be difficult.
“I spoke about transition recently but it was not about having four senior players leave during the season and then you throw five or six injuries on top of that, you’ve got 10 or 11 of your top 22 players unavailable.
“That isn’t the transition we had been hoping for, so we’re learning some hard lessons and the experiences are tough for all of us.”
Hull KR 12-0 Salford Red Devils
Hull KR sealed their place in the Super League play-offs with a tense 12-0 win over Salford at Craven Park.
Tries from James Batchelor and Ryan Hall, plus four points from the boot of Brad Schneider, were enough to see Willie Peters’ side extend their season as they pushed their winning run to four games.
Rovers should have taken the lead in the sixth minute when Kane Linnett made the break and passed to Shaun Kenny-Dowall who found Schneider, but the scrum-half could not take in the pass just yards from the line.
Schneider’s dummy and offload found Tom Opacic, his pass set Batchelor away and he raced in for the opening try after 23 minutes, with Schneider adding the extras.
Rovers were keeping Salford pinned in their own half and when the Red Devils got up the other end, they were denied a try because of a forward pass by Oliver Partington.
Mikey Lewis nearly escaped, but a try-saving tackle by Ryan Brierley denied him a run to the line. Two minutes before the break Salford’s King Vuniyayawa was sent to the sin-bin for tackling Walker without the ball.
Rovers were unable to make the player advantage tell as a scrappy start to the second half saw both sides make mistakes.
Salford knocked on trying to break clear and a high tackle on Lewis gifted Schneider with a penalty which he kicked for the first points of the second half and an 8-0 lead four minutes later.
Kenny-Dowall and Linnett got the ball to Lewis from a Schneider bomb, but the stand-off was unable to get the ball down before being bundled into touch as Rovers pushed for a clinching try.
That try came with eight minutes left through Hall after Lewis had flicked on a pass from Schneider and the wing raced to touch down in the corner, sealing Rovers’ place in the play-offs.
Hull FC 20-52 Huddersfield Giants
Huddersfield produced a scintillating second-half performance to defeat Hull 52-20 in the Black and Whites’ final home game of the Super League season.
The game was finely poised early in the second half, with the Giants leading by just two points. However, the hosts collapsed under Huddersfield pressure, with the visitors scoring six tries to round off a miserable day for Tony Smith’s side.
Jake Connor came back to haunt the Black and Whites, pulling his former team apart with the boot and out of the hands to ensure his side ran out comfortable winners.
Hull came into the game desperate to snap a four-game losing streak and send a host of departing players out as winners, while Huddersfield were keen to find some form in their final two outings to springboard into 2024.
However, after displaying some grit in the first half, the defence on show at times in the second was embarrassing from the home side, who had no answer to the slickness of Huddersfield, who head into the final game of the season full of confidence.
Huddersfield made a great start with Jermaine McGillvary showing slick hands before racing over untouched on the right to open the scoring.
The home side were not deterred and hit back swiftly with a try from Tex Hoy, who cut through the Giants line and rounded the full-back to score from close range and level up the scores.
Hull had gained the advantage and soon took the lead with a long-range try to Darnell McIntosh, who supported a break from Andre Savelio to score against his old club.
The Giants were having plenty of success off the boot and, off the back of another repeat set, Connor fired a perfect pass for Esan Marsters to score untouched and level the scores.
Huddersfield scored again just before the break to take the lead, Seb Ikahihifo beating several players before crashing over on the left.
Hull had to score in the second half and did through Savelio, who touched down from close range to cut the gap to four points.
That was as good as it got for the hosts though as the Giants cut loose in a blistering 25-minute spell which brought them six tries.
Kevin Naiqama scored a hat-trick, there was a well-taken double from Will Pryce and McGillvary completed his own double with a score out wide a few minutes from time.
Hull would have the final say though, with the retiring Scott Taylor crashing over under the posts and converting his own try in the last act of the game.