Bradford profit from dispute over Sterling

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The Independent Online

When it is said that the team that do things together off the field stick together when the pressure is on, it does not usually apply to industrial tribunals.

When it is said that the team that do things together off the field stick together when the pressure is on, it does not usually apply to industrial tribunals.

With the Leeds coach, Dean Lance, and their winger Paul Sterling wrapped in dispute last week over Sterling's claims of racial discrimination, their preparation for this sudden- death playoff was fractured in the extreme, and the chances always were that they would be the ones to die.

Without being at their most efficient or clinical throughout, Bradford took full toll of the Leeds disarray, setting up a battle with Wigan for the remaining Grand Final place and extending Matthew Elliott's last season as coach by at least another week.

It should not really have been surprising that Leeds began like a fairly unhappy team. Graham Mackay, playing on the wing ahead of Sterling, never got off the ground under Henry Paul's high kick, allowing Leon Pryce to claim it and score with some ease.

Henry Paul added a conversion and a penalty after a ragged Leeds defensive line was caught offside, and the Rhinos committed an even more fundamental error a few minutes later, trying to tackle Paul Anderson, at 19 stone the heaviest player in Super League, around the shoulders when he ran on to James Lowes' pass.

The result was inevitable, Anderson barging his way over for the second Bradford try, with Barrie McDermott and Francis Cummins the main culprits.

Paul's third goal gave Bradford a handy lead, and Leeds had shown so little in the way of attacking potential that it was against the whole grain of the game when they scored their first points. Bradford's handling had not been particularly secure and it was Mike Forshaw's dropped ball that gave their opponents the opportunity, Andy Hay forcing his way under the posts and Iestyn Harris adding the goal.

Then followed the most eagerly-awaited substitution of the game, Sterling coming on for the injured Keith Senior to be greeted by a low rumble from the Leeds supporters' end of Odsal. He was soon called upon to make the ball safe behind his own line when Pryce threatened to reach Henry Paul's kick.

It looked inevitable, however, that Bradford would score again, and they did so before half-time when Stuart Fielden took the pass from the irrepressible Henry Paul and ran through some Leeds tackling that once again lacked real commitment. Then a knock-on from Adrian Morley, in his last game for Leeds, gave Bradford possession and Lowes linked superbly with Brad Mackay before slipping out a gem of a pass to send Pryce away for his second.

Henry Paul reached over for a well-deserved try to go with his eventual total of six goals, and the Leeds disintegration was summed up by Karl Pratt knocking on Lowes' kick behind his try-line and presenting David Boyle with the softest four points imaginable.

The week's damage, which has been considerable in one way or the other, was completed by Robbie Paul's try, after Sterling had knocked the ball out of his hands, and Pryce's third, from Paul Deacon's kick. Sterling got one back at the end for Leeds, but the price for ending the season in such confusion had already been paid.

Bradford: Spruce; Viakona, Naylor, Withers, Pryce, H Paul, R Paul, Fielden, Lowes, Anderson, Peacock, Forshaw,B Mackay. Substitutes: Deacon, Boyle, Smith, Brian McDermott.

Leeds: Cummins; Pratt, Blackmore,Senior, G Mackay, Harris, Sheridan, Fleary, Jackson, Barrie McDermott,Morley, Sinfield, Hay. Substitutes: Farrell, Powell, Barnhill, Sterling.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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