Smith marks return with crucial Leeds leveller

Leeds 20 Bradford 20
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The Independent Online

Lee Smith's late try salvaged a draw for Leeds on his return to rugby league after the Rhinos had looked doomed to a fourth Super League defeat in a row. The champions fought back from 14 points down and it was Smith, after his one-match Wasps career who got the vital try – his second – by chasing Danny McGuire's kick.

Leeds achieved their comeback despite the loss of Danny Buderus to the sin bin for 10 minutes late in the match, but with a considerable contribution from Smith, who played like he had never been gone. "He showed all the same qualities," said his coach, Brian McClennan. "He's a bit of conditioning to catch up, but his instincts and willingness to get involved are still the same."

For the Bulls' Steve McNamara, it was neither a point lost nor a point gained. "I've mixed emotions. We were very good for long periods, but we should have closed the game down."

Smith went straight back into the side he left after last year's Grand Final on the right wing, but before he had as much as touched the ball Leeds were in arrears.

Elliott Whitehead sent Chris Nero away down the left with an overarm pass, the Rhinos slowed down the attack at the cost of a penalty and Matt Orford's short ball put Nero over. After Smith had received another welcome back to rugby league in the form of a fair but ferociously hard tackle from his former team-mate Nick Scruton, Leeds went further behind.

Fluent handling to the right wing did the trick this time, with Paul Sykes providing the final pass to Dave Halley. Orford then added a penalty.

Apart from Smith, Leeds also had captain, Kevin Sinfield, back in their side after a four-match injury absence. He was, however, completely outshone in the creative stakes by Orford. After Leeds had again turned the ball over, he punished them with a precise pass to enable Steve Menzies to stretch over.

Leeds badly needed a boost before half-time and they got it when Smith took Danny McGuire's lofted pass to go over in the corner in familiar style after 33 minutes.

Bradford extended their lead after 51 minutes, running the ball on the last tackle for Nero to go in for his second.

But then Brent Webb found a gap and Brett Delaney scored, although Sinfield's missed conversion meant that there was a 10-point difference.

That shrank to four when Sinfield sold a dummy to carve through and this time added the goal. Smith wiped that out and set up a last few minutes of unbearable tension.

Leeds Webb; Smith, Delaney, Senior, Hall; McGuire, Burrow; Leuluai, Diskin, Bailey, Kirke, Jones-Buchanan, Sinfield.

Substitutes used: Lauitiiti, Burgess, Buderus, Ambler.

Bradford Kearney; Halley, Platt, Nero, Reardon; Sykes, Orford; Lynch, L'Estrange, Scruton, Whitehead, Langley, Menzies.

Substitutes used: Hall, Godwin, Kopczak, Donaldson.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).