Leeds avenged April’s defeat at Bradford on Friday night, with a thrilling 33-20 win at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium.
Bradford were gifted a lead in the second minute, Paul Deacon scoring a penalty before Leeds had even touched the ball. Leeds let the kick-off bounce into touch, and on the following set they gave away a cheap penalty which gave Deacon the chance to put the visitors 2-0 ahead.
Leeds hit the front within minutes, though, after patient build-up saw centre Keith Senior play in young winger Ryan Hall in the corner. Captain Kevin Sinfield superbly added the extras from the touchline, his conversion going in off the far post.
The home side were further ahead in almost identical fashion two minutes later, Hall again connecting superbly with Senior in the corner after quick lateral passing. Sam Burgess‘s knock-on 40 metres out handed possession to Leeds, before neat passing resulted in Hall’s touchdown. Sinfield’s conversion attempt narrowly sailed past the far post, giving his side an early 10-2 lead.
After a fairly quiet spell, evergreen scrum-half Rob Burrow marvellously set up Jamie Jones-Buchanan to stretch the lead. His dummy wonderfully fooled the Bradford defence, and instead of playing it back, he passed it square to Jones-Buchanan who cruished through to score. Sinfield converted to make it 16-2.
Wingman Semi Tadulala fantastically clawed Leeds back with a marauding run in the 25th minute. Having dodged several Leeds players with an elusive flat run, he squared it up cleverly to pierce through three tacklers to power through. Deacon added the extras to cut the deficit to 16-8.
The two teams exchanged a few sets in the closing stages of the half, before a high shot on Burrow gave Sinfield a perfect opportunity to kick two more points before the interval. The skipper obliged, giving his side an 18-8 lead at the interval.
In the 52nd minute, stand-off Deacon brought Steve McNamara’s outfit right back into the game with a captain’s try, diving through hapless Leeds tacklers. Deacon converted his own try to cut the deficit to 18-14 with ample time left in the half.
Five minutes later, experienced Australian second-rower Steve Menzies turned the game on its head with a quickfire try, latching onto a Deacon offload at the end of a flowing move to give the travelling Bradford band hope of another derby shock.
Before the Grattan Stadium side could get too confident of an upset, though, Sinfield quickly pulled the scores level with a simple penalty on the hour mark, after cheap indiscipline on Bradford’s part.
The visitors had a good chance to regain the lead minutes later, but Deacon’s penalty just brushed the wrong side of the post.
The miss would prove costly, too, as on routinely collecting the bouncing ball, try-scorer Ryan Hall broke superbly upfield to reach the halfway line. On the end of the next move Burrow was splitting the defence in two to crash over crucially. Sinfield converted to give his side a 26-20 advantage.
Seven minutes from time, in an attempt to kill the game off, a Sinfield drop-goal just hit the post, before bouncing kindly into the grateful arms of Michael Worrincy. Within a minute, another one-pointer had sailed just wide to keep the Leeds fans on edge.
With a mere four minutes on the clock, an electrifying Bradford move on the last tackle resulted in Rikki Sheriffe dramatically touching down in the corner, before referee Phil Bentham immediately ruled his try out for being in touch.
With the game slipping away from Bradford, Lee Smith finally put the game to bed, from his side’s fourth drop-goal attempt. After Sinfield’s initial effort was charged down, Smith picked up the loose ball to sink the ball through the sticks and claim the two points for Brian McLennan’s charges.
To top off a see-saw encounter, Scott Donald finished off a breakaway move on the left flank, before Sinfield kicked his sixth conversion to make the final score 33-20.
Leeds Rhinos – 33
T: Hall (5, 9); Jones-Buchanan (20); Burrow (67); Donald (80)
G: Sinfield (6, 21, 40, 61, 68, 80)
DG: Smith (78)
Bradford Bulls – 20
T: Tadulala (25); Deacon (52); Menzies (59)
G: Deacon (2, 25, 60)
Ref: P Bentham