Friday 20th July 2012, 20:00
Super League - Round: 21
Kallum Watkins 2, Shaun Lunt, Zak Hardaker, Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield,
Elliott Whitehead, Olivier Elima, Karl Pryce,
Kevin Sinfield 4, Zak Hardaker,
Luke Gale 2,
Attendance: 18,520 Official: S Ganson Venue: Headingley Carnegie Stadium
Full Time Report
On-loan hooker Shaun Lunt scored the 100th try of his career as in-form Leeds Rhinos secured a sixth successive win to keep their double dream alive.
The Rhinos needed to be at their best to see off a spirited Bradford Bulls side that contributed fully to a thoroughly entertaining derby in front of an 18,520 crowd at Headingley.
It was the Bulls’ first defeat since going into administration as they missed the chance to take over fifth spot in Stobart Super League from their hosts.
The attendance was swelled by around 3,500 Bulls fans encouraged by Leeds’ decision to hand back all the proceeds of away-ticket sales to help the bid to keep the Bradford club from liquidation.
However, the champions’ generosity did not extend onto the field, where the exchanges were tough and uncompromising and the action unrelenting.
Both sides demonstrated a willingness to attack from deep inside their own half and Bradford struck first with a sparkling 60-metre move.
It was sparked by hooker Heath L'Estrange, with danger man Brett Kearney taking his pass to break clear while Michael Platt was in support to send second rower Elliott Whitehead over for a glorious try.
Luke Gale’s goal made it 6-0 but Leeds drew level midway through the first half following a break by teenager Stevie Ward, who had pulled out of the England Academy tour to Australia to continue his apprenticeship at Headingley.
Danny McGuire took Ward’s pass, only to be hauled down short of the line by winger Karl Pryce. But quick passing from Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield and Zak Hardaker in the next play got centre Kallum Watkins over the line for the first of his two tries.
That followed Jarrod Sammut’s failure to find touch with a penalty and the Australian half-back was denied a try when Pryce’s final pass to him was ruled forward.
Already without Carl Ablett through injury, Leeds lost his centre replacement Brett Delaney with a thumb problem six minutes before half-time which necessitated a re-shuffle.
Yet Bradford experienced an even bigger blow when full-back Kearney failed to re-appear for the second half after taking a heavy knock before the break.
The Bulls continued to play with a carefree spirit but were undone by a purple patch from the Rhinos early in the second half.
Watkins took Hardaker’s defence-splitting pass to round Sammut for his second try and, after the makeshift full-back had collided with Pryce in trying to collect Hardaker’s high kick, swooped on the loose ball to get Lunt over for his landmark score.
Sinfield added both conversions to give his side an 18-6 lead but was sin-binned on 67 minutes for tackling a Bradford player off the ball.
The 12-man Rhinos had to defend desperately to keep their 12-point lead intact, with Jamie Langley and Pryce both going within inches of the line before prop Manase Manuokafoa got over without being able to ground the ball.
Leeds then showed their champion qualities to score on the counter-punch, McGuire getting prop Kylie Leuluai through a hole in the Bradford defence for Hardaker to finish off.
Hardaker kicked the goal in the absence of Sinfield while Bradford gained some reward for their perseverance when second rower Olivier Elima and Pryce scored late consolation tries.
The Rhinos had the final say, however, when McGuire and Sinfield both pounced on handling errors to add further tries and Sinfield took his goal tally to four from five attempts.