Leeds bow to the Noble arts

Leeds 12 Bradford 26
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The Independent Online

Bradford, the Super League champions, beat Leeds for the first time in four attempts this season to ensure that they will defend their title at Old Trafford on 16 October.

Bradford, the Super League champions, beat Leeds for the first time in four attempts this season to ensure that they will defend their title at Old Trafford on 16 October.

The Bulls exploited Leeds' early frailties and then defended superbly to deny them when they threatened to dominate, bearing out the contention of their coach, Brian Noble, that they have hit form at precisely the right time.

They now get the benefit of a week off, while Leeds must face Wigan on Friday to try to force their way into the Grand Final at the second attempt.

Leeds, the Super League leaders all season, made the sort of nervous start that suggested that they are not quite over their Bradford hoodoo. Andrew Dunemann lost Paul Deacon's low kick to Iestyn Harris to give the Bulls a bonus of early possession and they took full advantage. Running the ball on the last tackle, they got it out to Shontayne Hape who went through Chris McKenna's poor attempt at a tackle for the game's first point.

After 15 minutes Leeds mistake in their own half found them out when David Furner lost the ball and Deacon threw a pass out wide for Hape to once more find a big hole in the Rhinos' defence.

Leeds would have been in even worse trouble if Deacon had been able to kick either of his conversions, but things were quite bad enough.

Hape experienced the low to go with those two highs when he lost the ball in a Danny McGuire tackle to set up Leeds for their reply.

At the end of that set of tackles, Matt Diskin's perfectly judged little kick from near the line, McGuire's equally well-timed run and Kevin Sinfield's conversion brought the Rhinos to within two points.

Leeds would have been ahead but for Marcus Bai's failure to find McGuire in support from one break and Rob Parker's wonderful ankle tap on McKenna that denied them from another. Bai and Danny Ward threatened with other half-breaks, but the closest Leeds came to taking the lead was when Shev Walker had a touchdown from McGuire's kick disallowed by the video referee for a knock-on.

Leeds' bafflement as to how they were still behind deepened before half-time when Ali Lauiti'iti handled twice to cut the Bradford defence to ribbons, but McGuire could not take his pass.

Walker thought he had finally made the breakthrough 10 minutes into the second half when he raced the length of the field, but play had already been pulled up for a knock-on.

From that scrum, Bradford, who had taken such a battering, extended their lead, Robbie Paul spinning in the tackle to go over and Deacon this time adding the goal.

Four minutes later, Deacon's kick bounced crazily in the in-goal area and Lee Radford plucked it out of the air for another converted try.

Back came Leeds when Sinfield somehow managed to smuggle out a pass for which Willie Poching scored, but an effort from Bai that could have made it uncomfortably close was ruled out for a double movement and, in the last minute, Lesley Vainikolo, went over to exaggerate Bradford's eventual superiority.

Leeds: Mathers; Walker, McKenna, Senior, Bai; McGuire, Dunemann; Bailey, Diskin, Ward, Furner, Adamson, Sinfield. Substitutes used: McDermott, Lauiti'iti, Burrow, Poching.

Bradford: Withers; Reardon, Pryce, Hape, Vainikolo; Harris, Beacon; Vagana, Paul, Fielden, Peacock, Swann, Radford. Substitutes used: Pratt, Johnson, Parker, Moore.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).