Bai treble helps Leeds demolish hapless London

Leeds Rhinos 58 London Broncos 14
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The Independent Online

Whisper it around the streets of Headingley, where the fans are used to their early-season hopes evaporating in disappointment, but this could be the year that Leeds cast off their bridesmaids tag.

Leeds ran in 10 tries, including a hat-trick for the new boy Marcus Bai, against a Broncos side whose three-month training camp in Dubai can hardly have prepared them for a bitterly cold day with intermittent show showers in West Yorkshire. Chev Walker, Rob Burrow and Keith Senior all bagged braces while skipper Kevin Sinfield finished with nine goals from 10 attempts as the vast majority of the 15,119 crowd wended their way home full of anticipation for the season ahead.

"Marcus did a good job and it was a good start," the new Leeds coach, Tony Smith, reflected. "I was pleased with our defence and we scored some entertaining tries and had some sensational passages of play."

The Papuan Bai, Leeds' only preseason recruit after a stint in the NRL with Melbourne, looks set to become a crowd favourite. "The atmosphere was electric and they really lifted me," he said. "It was a good start for me and I am setting up a good combination with Keith Senior but I must keep working hard."

The London coach, Tony Rea, who fielded a side containing six debutant players, said: "We can't take too much out of that. We didn't get too much ball so you saw little of us in attack and our defence didn't work. When their gear changed from first to second we didn't go with it."

Burrow got Leeds underway with two tries in three minutes after Paul Sykes booted London into an early lead. Though Dennis Moran responded with a trademark, 90-metre interception try, Leeds moved clear when Senior charged over from Matt Diskin's short pass before laying on Bai's first try in the corner.

Andrew Brocklehurst - one of 11 English-born players in a London side that not long ago was dominated by Australians - pulled back a try to reduce the arrears to 24-10 at the interval.

But Leeds turned the screw in the second half, running in six tries with just an isolated Radney Bowker effort in reply. Chev Walker and Senior, after a thrilling 70-metre move, went over with Paul Sykes in the sin-bin. Mark Calderwood, Bai and Walker crossed again and Bai completed his hat-trick after Senior knocked back Sinfield's high kick to the corner.

Leeds: Connolly; Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai; McGuire, Burrow; Bailey, Diskin, McDermott, Furner, Adamson, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Dunemann, Poching, McDonald, Ward.

London: Sykes; Wells, O'Halloran, Jackson, Roy; Bowker, Moran; Trindall, Budworth, Retchless, Mbu, Hart, Dymock. Substitutes used: Stephenson, Haughey, Stringer, Brocklehurst.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).