The champions, Bradford Bulls, are set to drop out of the top three in the engage Super League after losing for the fourth time in six matches under their new coach, Steve McNamara.
The Bulls, who had the chance to go second, paid the price for their lack of finishing as they crashed to a 30-0 home defeat by Leeds on Friday night and will be overtaken by Hull if Peter Sharp's men continue their winning run at the expense of Huddersfield today.
Bradford were well in the hunt at half-time when they trailed just 6-0 after having faced a stiff breeze, but they crumbled under a second-half onslaught by the visitors and conceded four more tries. It was the first time that the champions had failed to score a single point in a game since St Helens beat them 35-0 at Odsal in June 2003.
The diminutive Great Britain scrum-half Rob Burrow did the bulk of the damage for the Rhinos, producing some dazzling footwork to score the only try of the first half and chasing back to pull off a try-saving tackle on the Bradford centre Ben Harris.
"I thought he was outstanding," said the Leeds coach, Tony Smith. "While both teams were throwing big punches at each other, Rob looked like a little flyweight who kept running in between them and the big heavyweights couldn't hold him."
Leeds cut loose in the second half with tries from Chev Walker, Willie Poching, Ryan Bailey and Keith Senior and their captain, Kevin Sinfield, kicked all five conversions.
While the Rhinos got back on track after suffering three defeats in six matches, the Bulls are close to crisis point as McNamara struggles to halt their slide. Their thrilling 20-18 win over the Rhinos at Headingley in April must seem a light year away but they can draw some comfort from the words of their rivals' coach. "You can go through periods of the season when you're feeling fresh and energetic and some weeks you don't," said Smith. "I haven't seen a team who have been able to do it all year, every week, it's just not possible. It was good that we were back in that sort of mode this week. Hopefully it will be the same next week but you can't guarantee it.
"Sometimes a team runs hot against you and we happened to be that team this week. We've had a few teams run hot against us at times. That's sport. If you happen to have the edge that week, you can run up scorelines."Reuse content