Leeds started like the champions they are, hitting Bradford with an early whirlwind from which they never recovered.
The Rhinos are in danger of losing their reputation for being slow into their stride in the regular season. The pace and strength of their outside backs left Bradford looking in vain for answers until it was too late on one of the more sobering nights since their rebirth and their heaviest defeat yet under the coaching of Francis Cummings.
“They were too good for us at the start,” said Cummings. “You can’t allow Leeds to get four tries in front.”
“We were very impressive in the first half, but Bradford made a contest of it after that,” said the Rhinos coach, Brian McDermott. “It doesn’t take a lot to be miles ahead of where we were last year. I’ve usually had my third coronary by now.”
This was an opportunity, had they been able to take it, for Bradford and their fans to celebrate the confirmation of their Super League licence for next season, after their near implosion last year. Leeds, with two games in hand on the other leading sides, have been making their way ominously into a rather better position than is their habit at this stage of the season.
It took just four minutes for the champions to find their feet as Ryan Hall fielded Luke Gale’s long kick and ran the ball across field to allow for Kallum Watkins to go 60 metres with his potent combination of power and balance. Another four minutes and Bradford were ripped apart again, initially by Brett Delaney’s break. Cultured handling, especially from Danny McGuire and Kevin Sinfield, and the Rhinos were over again through Mitch Achurch, with Sinfield landing his second goal.
Carl Ablett added a third before Ben Evans struck the first blow for the Bulls. That was as good as it got for them in the first-half, however as McGuire followed Paul McShane’s break for his team’s fourth.
Ryan Bailey got over just before the break, but Eliot Kear got one back for the home side down a vacant wing.With Leeds taking it easy, Brett Kearney got over again for the Bulls, raising the question of what might have been had they just started better.
Zak Hardaker ended all that conjecture when he bounced over, with Ablett strolling over for an easy second and Sinfield finishing with seven goals from seven attempts on his 450th appearance for the club.
Bradford: Kearney; Kear, Blythe, Lulia, Purtell; Sammut, Gale; Scruton, Diskin, Manuokafoa, Olbison, Whitehead, Walker. Substitutes used: L’Estrange, Addy, Evans, Sidlow.
Leeds: Hardaker; Watkins, Ablett, Moon, Hall; McGuire, Sinfield; Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Achurch, Delaney, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes used: McShane, Kirke, Clarkson, Bailey.
Referee: R Silverwood (RFL)