Forshaw's grand flourish

Bradford Bulls 30 Leeds Rhinos 14
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The Independent Online

Bradford booked their place in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford by grinding out a fifth victory of the season over their local rivals.

Their veteran loose forward, Mike Forshaw, scored the two late tries that clinched it against his former club as the Bulls finally took advantage of a side who had been forced to do more than their share of defending.

Forshaw is likely to be leaving the club for Warrington at the end of the season, after being one of the cornerstones of their success over the last few years. Like Daniel Gartner, who is due to retire, he underlined his value last night in the sort of match that shows tough, durable players at their best.

"Mike will be making his decision at the end of the year and it may be that he'll be moving on," said his coach, Brian Noble. "But I thought he was outstanding tonight."

The first half was a dour affair, with Leeds pinned back from the start and conceding the first try to Lesley Vainikolo after nine minutes, when the outstanding Gartner slipped a ball out of the tackle, with Paul Deacon kicking the first of his seven goals.

Leeds, and Richard Mathers in particular, produced some mighty defence to prevent the Bulls from inflicting further damage and six minutes before half time Leeds got their reward for hanging in so resolutely when Kevin Sinfield gave Francis Cummins the chance to go over in the corner.

Deacon stretched Bradford's lead to four points before the break with a penalty, but Leeds clawed that back early in the second half when Gary Connolly drew Vainikolo off his wing, taking a heavy hit but still getting the ball away for Mark Calderwood to score.

That was when Leeds' discipline started to let them down, with a string of penalties for high tackles, two of them booted over by Deacon. "We could have been better disciplined," admitted their coach, Daryl Powell afterwards. "We gave penalties away at crucial times."

Despite that, Leeds took the lead for the first time when Keith Senior's strong run set up the position and David Furner's dummy and lunge did the rest, with Sinfield's first successful kick giving them the edge. That was the signal for Bradford to step up their intensity. Another penalty for a high tackle, this time by Willie Poching, gave them the opportunity to attack and Leon Pryce wove his way through.

The last 10 minutes belonged to Forshaw, who twice chased kicks from James Lowes, the second of which produced a horrible blunder from Calderwood.

"I am delighted for the players, who have come through their share of adversity this season," said Noble as he contemplated the trip to Old Trafford on 18 October.

"They have been the best side in the competition and they thoroughly deserve their place in the Grand Final. I thought we dominated the first half and I could not believe that we were not 18-0 up."

Leeds now have to regroup in time to face Wigan on Friday; they must win that to get their sixth and last chance of beating Bradford. "The players have bounced back well on almost every occasion," Powell said, but he will know that they face the most searching test of their character after such a bruising encounter last night.

Bradford: Reardon; Vaikona, Withers, Hape, Vainikolo; Pratt, Deacon; Vagana, Lowes, Fielden, Gartner, Peacock, Forshaw. Substitutes used: Gilmour, Pryce, Anderson, Radford.

Leeds: Mathers; Calderwood, Connolly, Senior, Cummins; Dunemann, Burrow; Adamson, Diskin, McDermott, Furner, McKenna, Sinfield. Substitutes used: McDonald, Feather, McGuire, Poching.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).