Leeds claim derby joy
Leeds Rhinos completed a hat-trick of victories over local rivals Bradford Bulls with a 30-14 success at the Grattan Odsal.
By Graeme Mair
Last Updated: 23/05/08 10:53pm
Leeds Rhinos came from behind to complete a hat-trick of victories over local rivals Bradford Bulls with a 30-14 success at Grattan Odsal on Friday evening.
The Rhinos scored three of their five tries in the last 20 minutes having trailed 8-0 mid-way through the first half and 14-12 entering the final quarter.
A quick double from Ali Lauitiiti and Brent Webb in the 62nd and 63rd minutes turned a two-point deficit into a 24-14 lead for the visitors, who are now eight points clear of St Helens at the top of the engage Super League table.
That had looked an unlikely outcome when Bradford completely dominated the opening 20 minutes to move 8-0 ahead through tries from David Solomona and Dave Halley.
But the Rhinos responded with two tries of their own - one a brilliant individual effort from Danny McGuire, the other a fine collective move that put Rob Burrow across the whitewash - to claim an undeserved 12-10 lead at the break.
And although Bradford briefly regained the initiative with Tame Tupou's 56th-minute try, Leeds finished by far the stronger to claim their 13th league win of the season, which was iced by Keith Senior's try just before the hooter.
Deacon and Harris injured
Bradford had been hit by the late withdrawal of half-back pair Paul Deacon and Iestyn Harris, who both pulled hamstrings in training on Thursday, and also lost both Semi Tadulala and Sam Burgess to injury during the match.
They initially made light of those absences to open a deserved 8-0 advantage. Solomona opened the scoring in the 14th minute, forcing his way over from short range, although Paul Sykes, taking over the kicking duties from Deacon, was off-target with the conversion.
The lead was doubled six minutes later when Ben Jeffries hoisted a pinpoint cross-field kick to Halley out on the right wing, who easily outjumped his diminutive marker Burrow to go in for the try. Sykes again wasted the chance for an additional two points.
The Bulls' joy was shortlived as Tadulala joined their growing injury list having suffered a suspected dislocated left shoulder while being tackled by Carl Ablett in the build-up to Halley's try. The Fijian winger was replaced by Tupou and was taken to hospital to have the injury assessed.
The momentum turned decisively to Leeds thanks to a moment of magic from McGuire in the 23rd minute. The Great Britain international stand-off ran laterally around Shontayne Hape, and then made for the line on an angle that culminated with him reaching across his body to ground the ball in the right corner while lying on his back.
Sinfield's touchline conversion allowed him get on the scoresheet for the 49th consecutive regular season Super League match, breaking former Wigan star Andy Farrell's record.
And Leeds moved ahead for the first time when Burrow sauntered to the line three minutes before half-time.
Senior made the initial break by coming on flat to Sinfield's short pass and then sucked in Sykes before releasing Burrow with an inside ball. Sinfield added the extras for a 12-8 lead at the interval.
Bradford suffered yet another injury blow early in the second half when Sam Burgess was forced off after a being on the end of a heavy tackle that left him clutching his ribs.
But that did not stop the Bulls edging back in front in the 55th minute. Tupou taking Terry Newton's mis-pass for a straightforward finish in the left corner, his first try of the season, and this time Sykes landed the conversion.
Elbow in touch
Tupou was almost in again in the same corner four minutes later, however the video referee determined that his left elbow had just clipped the corner flag before the ball was grounded.
And the hosts were then hit by a two-try blitz from Leeds that decided the destiny of the contest.
Lauitiiti's short-range finish was followed a minute later by a pacy, pass-filled break that exposed Bradford's tiring defence and ended with Webb touching down under the sticks.
Another near miss in the corner for Tupou was as close as the Bulls came to a response before Senior added Leeds' fifth try at the death to round off the scoring.