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Leeds Rhinos

2017 Super League Champions

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Leeds Rhinos 28 Bradford Bulls 20

10th May 2002

By Leeds Rhinos

Leeds Rhinos inflicted a 28-20 defeat on Tetley’s Rugby Super League leaders Bradford Bulls in a classic at Headingley.

The Rhinos had not beaten Bradford since July 2000 and had gone behind 10-0 through Tevita Vaikona's try and three Paul Deacon goals before Kevin Sinfield and Willie Poching's scores, converted by Ben Walker edged them ahead at the break.

WP – Home MPU

Tries to Wayne McDonald and Tonie Carroll sent Leeds 24-10 ahead before Robbie Paul replied, but two more Walker goals – the Australian had also been successfully switched to full back – sealed the win before Stuart Fielden's late score.

Leeds had knocked the Bulls out of the Challenge Cup in February with a superb defensive display but has struggled to reach those heights of performance since, with a shock home defeat to Widnes two weeks ago indicative of that.

However, they returned to form with a dominant showing in which they powered through the Bulls with alarming ease for their coach Brian Noble, while their kicking game constantly turned the Bradford back three.

On attack, they were also allowed to offload more than any other side against the Bulls this season, and that showed for their two first half tries.

But Bradford had actually struck the first blow after Leeds had shown up well in the opening exchanges.

Lesley Vainikolo had a try ruled out for a knock on after Daniel Gartner had jumped above Walker to Deacon's bomb – but they managed to legally cross the Rhinos line in the ninth minute.

Michael Withers provided the offload and Brandon Costin spotted that the Leeds defence had been sucked in, allowing him to send Vaikona in at the corner, Deacon adding an excellent touchline goal.

Deacon then added a penalty on the 20 minute mark before Leeds loose forward Adrian Vowles and Bulls hooker James Lowes found themselves sent to the sin bin for a cooling down period after tempers flared, Bradford gaining two more points from the penalty.

At 10-0, many would have tipped the Bulls to extend their good recent Super League record against Leeds, but the Rhinos hit back on 32 minutes when the ball was kept alive well and Sinfield was allowed to ghost past Deacon to the line.

Walker added the conversion, although Bulls coach Brian Noble was left seeking a half time audience with referee Russell Smith after he missed a forward pass for Leeds and then penalised Vainikolo for a second effort in dragging Mark Calderwood into touch.

And, while the Bulls were perhaps feeling hard done by, the Rhinos edged ahead at the break when Sinfield's offload enabled a delighted Willie Poching to touch down, Walker's goal making the scoreline 12-10.

It was a particularly sweet moment for Poching, who was back in the Rhinos' side after missing their 48-16 win at Salford last week to fly back to New Zealand following a family bereavement.

Illness had ruled Rhinos prop Darren Fleary out early on Friday, with Danny Ward stepping into the starting role and Wayne McDonald coming onto the bench.

It was the giant forward who pushed Leeds further ahead two minutes into the second half when he powered through Lowes and Jamie Peacock from 15 yards out before reaching over to score, Walker making the scoreline 18-10.

Another controversial decision five minutes later, when Robbie Paul was ruled to have knocked on a ball which he tried to collect from behind him, gave the Rhinos the chance to push away even further.

From the scrum, powerhouse Kiwi centre Tonie Carroll rounded Nathan McAvoy – just on the field for Lee Gilmour, who has a suspected broken wrist – before romping 60 yards to the line.

The famous South Stand was in raptures as Leeds threatened to repeat their 45-16 win of 1999 when Walker's conversion made the scoreline 24-10 with half an hour remaining.

But the Bulls hit back through livewire skipper Robbie Paul, who stepped away from dummy half and shot past the otherwise excellent Sinfield to touch down, Deacon adding the goal.

Walker missed from long range with a penalty attempt before adding two more points to Leeds' total on the hour after a high tackle from Lowes on Matt Adamson as the temperature reached boiling point.

Lowes joined Barrie McDermott on report for that incident, the Leeds prop having earlier been penalised for a swinging arm on Fielden as the front rowers clashed.

On 69 minutes, a monstrous hit from Carroll on Fielden saw the ball come free and, a minute later, a 42-metre penalty from Walker – after Vaikona's high tackle on strong running centre Keith Senior – pushed Leeds to 12 points ahead.

Fielden powered his way over Carroll to score in the corner and give the Bulls hope of a comeback, although Costin's missed conversion meant that the gap was still eight points.

The Great Britain prop's frustration then spilled over into a high shot on Carroll, who himself could have had a second try late on following a Paul spill, although Sinfield had knocked the ball on.

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