Deacon shows the way for Bradford

Bradford 22 Leeds 21
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The Independent Online

Bradford became the first winners of the new League Leaders Trophy and the side that will lead the way into the Super League play-offs thanks to Paul Deacon's match-winning drop goal two minutes from time.

Deacon provided many of the highlights of skill and a contest that was as tense and untidy as it was exciting. It was his cool head, after Bradford had ignored a couple of other opportunities, that confirmed the Bulls as the most consistent side in an unpredictable competition. "It takes the pressure off now, no one can catch us, but it's far from over. All we've achieved is one of our goals," the Bradford coach, Brian Noble, said.

Bradford took the lead with a try that owed everything to Deacon's ability to take on defences. His run and dummy to Scott Naylor was a masterpiece of deception and opened the route to the line for a touchdown which he converted.

Leeds' Wayne McDonald took advantage of a momentary lapse in the Bulls' tackling to go through for the equalising try, but Bradford were in front at half-time through Deacon's penalty after Francis Cummins held back Tevita Vaikona. Deacon's incisiveness created Stuart Reardon's try soon after the break, but Leeds came back strongly. First they were created with an odd-looking try to Willie Poaching after Rob Burrow ran into the base of the post.

Then Sinfield put over an equalising penalty after McDonald had the ball stolen. It was time for the worst and best of James Lowes on the night he said his farewells to the Odsal crowd.

The Bradford hooker was sin-binned for dissent but then returned, after Sinfield and Deacon had swapped drop goals, to conjure up the grubber kick from which Lesley Vainikolo put his side back in front.

Six minutes from time, Sinfield plunged over and kicked the conversion from wide out to level the scores once more.

Bradford got their chance when Barrie McDermott spilled the ball near his line. This time they set up the drop goal and Deacon obliged.

It was Leeds' fourth defeat by Bradford this season, and they now face a battle to hold onto second place. "But where we finish up in the table is still up to us,'' emphasised their coach, Daryl Powell.

Bradford: Reardon, Vaikona, Naylor, Hape, Vainikolo, Pratt, Deacon, Vagama, Lowes, Anderson, Gartner, Peacock, Forshaw. Subs: Gilmour, Langley, Radford, Parker.

Leeds: Connolly, Calderwood, McKenna, Senior, Cummins, McGuire, Dunemann, Adamson, Diskin, McDermott, Furner, Poching, Sinfield. Subs: Jones-Buchanan, Burrow, Ward, McDonald.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).