Bradford Bulls 24-22 Leeds Rhinos: Championship side shock Super League strugglers in Challenge Cup
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 13/05/19 7:22pm
John Kear masterminded yet another Coral Challenge Cup upset as Championship side Bradford Bulls stunned Super League side Leeds Rhinos by holding on for a 24-22 victory in Saturday's sixth-round clash at Odsal.
The Bulls took advantage of several errors and ill-discipline from their old rivals to lead 22-14 at half-time, with tries from Dalton Grant, Jake Webster, Sam Hallas and Mikey Wood having the Odsal faithful dreaming of an upset.
The Rhinos fought back in the second half and had a chance to level the match when Tom Briscoe burrowed his way over for a try out wide on the right with six minutes to go, only for Liam Sutcliffe's conversion attempt to hit the posts.
Bradford's defence duly held firm, leaving head coach Kear, who guided underdogs Sheffield Eagles to a famous Challenge Cup win over Wigan Warriors in the 1998 final, and his players to celebrate.
The defeat heaped more misery on Leeds in a week which saw them sack head coach David Furner after a poor start to the Super League season and caretaker coach Richard Agar will be eager to see a response when Castleford Tigers visit for the official opening of Headingley's new North Stand on Friday.
It was Leeds who opened the scoring after four minutes, with Brad Dwyer scooting out of dummy-half to break the line and pass inside for Tui Lolohea to score under the posts and give Sutcliffe an easy conversion.
Bradford were able to regain possession from the restart though when Briscoe tried to trap the ball with his feet rather than catch it, and the hosts turned the screw before man of the match Jordan Lilley - allowed to play against parent club Leeds and being told this week his Rhinos contract would not be renewed for 2020 - flung a cut-out pass to the right for winger Grant to finish.
The Rhinos responded quickly and, after Trent Merrin was held up over the line, a powerful burst from Callum McLellan saw him get the ball down for a 14th-minute try followed by Sutcliffe again adding the extras.
But it was all Bradford for the rest of the half, starting when a knock-on outfit gifted back possession to the hosts and they duly punished Leeds when Jake Webster out-jumped the defence to take a high kick from Rowan Milnes and charge in for an unconverted try on 24 minutes.
Three minutes later, the Bulls took a shock lead. A penalty gave John Kear's men excellent field position and Hallas finished the attack after taking a pass from half-back Milnes, who added the conversion after taking over kicking duties from Elliot Minchella after his two misses.
Then when the visitors carelessly gave away a penalty for obstruction 10 metres from their own line, back row Wood exploited a mismatch in the defence to drive through for a try which was again converted by Milnes.
The 19-year-old half-back, who is one of the Bulls' part-time players and whose day-job is as a swimming instructor, slotted over a penalty three minutes before half time to put the home side 10 points up, but that deficit was narrowed when Sutcliffe kicked a penalty to end the half.
No doubt with Agar half-time words ringing in their ears, Leeds began the second half brightly and, after a long spell of pressure, narrowed the deficit when Harry Newman's try in the corner was given after consultation with the video referee.
It went unconverted though and Milnes settled a few jangling Bradford nerves with a penalty on 64 minutes. However, a knock-on by the Bulls led to Leeds gaining possession and Briscoe used his strength to get over in the corner 10 minutes later, yet Sutcliffe could not convert.
The Rhinos desperately tried to find a way to get what would be the game-clinching try in the final minute, but took the wrong option by kicking on the last play allowing the second-tier side to book their quarter-final place.