The relegation of Bradford Bulls at the end of last season robbed Super League of one of its fiercest rivalries.
For much of the 2000s West Yorkshire derbies between Leeds Rhinos and their Odsal neighbours were among the most eagerly anticipated in the sport’s calendar.
One game between the two clubs, played eight years ago this week, has gone down as the most controversial in Super League history. Even now, mention of the Millennium Magic showdown, in Cardiff on May 6, 2007, will bring a smile to the face of any Leeds fan and leave Bulls supporters speechless with rage.
It was the final game of the first Magic Weekend, when an entire Super League round was played at one venue over two days. Leeds and Bradford were battling it out at the top of the table, along with St Helens, and every point was precious.
Bradford led for most of the game and were ahead 38-36 with seconds left on the clock when Gareth Ellis knocked on as Leeds – giving a debut to young winger Ryan Hall – desperately searched for a last-gasp winner.
The feed at the scrum should have gone to Bradford, who would then have seen out the final moments to clinch a priceless triumph, but instead referee Steve Ganson awarded a penalty to Rhinos. It emerged later he had been acting on the advice of video referee Ashley Klein, who told him Bulls’ Matt Cook had picked the ball up in an off-side position. Replays clearly showed it had, in fact, come off a Leeds boot – and anyway, Klein had over-stepped his authority by advising Ganson to award the penalty. So Kevin Sinfield had a shot at goal to salvage a point for Leeds. Remarkably, his kick bounced off the crossbar back into play and, as the hooter sounded, Jordan Tansey followed up to touch down, sending Rhinos players and fans wild with delight.
Bulls’ players protested, urging Ganson to hand the decision on, as he had done eight times previously. But he awarded the try, Sinfield converted and Leeds won 42-38. Replays immediately showed Tansey had been in front of Sinfield when the kick was taken and therefore off-side. It should have been no try and a penalty to Bulls.
Bradford coach Steve McNamara was beside himself with anger after the match, describing the finale as “completely wrong” and claiming “the whole game was decided by the referee”. Leeds boss Tony Smith praised his team’s character, but admitted Bradford had deserved to win.
Leeds Rhinos 42
(Tries Webb 3, Jones-Buchanan, Senior, Burrow, Tansey. Goals Sinfield 7)
Bradford Bulls 38 (Tries Platt 2, Vainikolo, Henderson, B Harris, Lynch. Goals Deacon 7)
May 6, 2007 Super League round 13 Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Leeds Rhinos: Webb, Donald, Toopi, Senior, Smith, McGuire, Burrow, Thackray, Sinfield, Leuluai, Jones-Buchanan, Kirke, Ellis. Subs Hall, Lauitiiti, Ablett, Tansey.
Bradford Bulls: Platt, McAvoy, B Harris, Evans, Vainikolo, I Harris, Deacon, Vagana, Newton, Lynch, Cook Solomona, Langley. Subs Halley, Henderson, Kopczak, Burgess.
Referee: Steve Ganson.