There was bitter disappointment for the Rhinos as they lost out to Bradford Bulls 26-12 at Headingley on Saturday night.

There was bitter disappointment for the Rhinos as they lost out to Bradford Bulls 26-12 at Headingley on Saturday night. The Rhinos finished nine points clear of their arch rivals at the end of the regular season and beat them in all three previous meetings but the Bulls became the first team to book their place at Old Trafford. Bradford got off to an ideal start when centre Shontayne Hape scored two tries in the first 15 minutes in front of a capacity crowd at Headingley. Leeds had their chances, dominating the middle part of the match, but the Bulls defence performed heroically to deny them time after time. Iestyn Harris set up the position for the opening score when he pilfered the ball from Rhinos scrum-half Andrew Dunemann deep inside the Leeds half. Harris’ half-back partner Paul Deacon spotted that Leeds were short of numbers on the left and quick hands by back row forwards Lee Radford and Logan Swann created an opening for Hape to crash through for his first try. Deacon hit an upright with the conversion attempt and he was also off target when Hape crossed for his second try, courtesy of another Deacon cut-out pass. Leeds showed their danger when left winger Marcus Bai was twice put into space and record-breaking stand-off McGuire was always lurking for the tryscoring opportunities. Inevitably McGuire brought Leeds back in the game, grabbing his 37th try of the season on 20 minutes when he raced onto Matt Diskin’s grubber kick to the line on the last tackle. The try, converted by Kevin Sinfield, breathed new life into the home side, who began carving open the Bradford defence with alarming ease. Only an ankle tap denied centre Chris McKenna and winger Chev Walker thought he had scored when his pounced on a handling error by Hape but video referee Dave Campbell ruled he failed to control the ball. As the Rhinos maintained the pressure, McGuire missed another chance, snatching at a pass from second rower Ali Lauitiiti, and Bradford were mightily relieved to hear the half-time hooter. Leeds suffered a body blow four minutes into the second half when Sinfield, who was involved in a collision with team-mate Richard Mathers when Hape scored his second try, had to be helped from the field. And, when Sinfield returned to the fray 14 minutes later, he found his side trailing 20-6 after they conceded two quickfire tries in his absence. Walker went 80 metres only to be brought back for a knock-on and Bradford scored from the resultant scrum, with skipper Robbie Paul twisting and turning his way over from acting half-back. Leeds were still reeling from that score when Radford plucked the ball out of the air to touch down Deacon’s high kick and complete the transformation. Deacon’s second goal put the Bulls 14 points clear but Sinfield gave his side renewed hope on the hour when his pass out of the tackle got Willie Poching over for a try. Bai also got to the line to finish off a flowing move but his try was disallowed for a double movement and Bradford had the final say when blockbusting winger Lesley Vainikolo crashed over at the corner for his 38th try of the season.