Derbies between Leeds Rhinos are Bradford Bulls aren’t usually dull, but last night’s mis-match was an exception to the rule.
It’s a measure of how far Bulls have fallen that Rhinos were able to win 46-6 scoring nine tries in the process – without being at their best.
It was Leeds’ biggest winning margin at Odsal and their highest Super League score against Bulls.
Rhinos scored several outstanding tries and were again strong defensively, though they weren’t put under any pressure by hosts who created only two real chances.
Left-winger Ryan Hall – who got some excellent service from his centre Joel Moon – bagged three tries to take his tally for the season so far to 11.
Brad Singleton also caught the eye, particularly in a powerful first spell.
Rob Burrow played the full 80 again on his 400th appearance for Leeds and was a constant attacking menace.
Fittingly he marked his milestone with a try, scoring Leeds’ final touchdown two minutes from time.
Rhinos scored their 20 first half points – from four tries and a couple of conversions – inside the opening quarter of an hour and they were electric during that spell, which was when the game was effectively won.
Bulls did well to go in at the break only 14 points adrift and still just about in the match, on the scoreboard at least.
That was despite Bradford only having one attack in the half, their try coming through a long-range interception from close to their own line.
Rhinos could have killed it off, but they took a couple of wrong options and made several errors as they – perhaps understandably – failed to keep up their early pace.
With Bradford being unable to apply any real pressure to the visitors’ defence – and committing plentiful mistakes of their own – the game got sloppy and there wasn’t much for the crowd of 10,106 to get excited about.
Avoiding injuries is a priority at Easter, but Leeds didn’t get through unscathed as substitute Stevie Ward limped off – with what looked like a left ankle injury – just moments after joining the action.
It took Leeds just four minutes to get on the scoreboard. Zak Hardaker was held up by Brett Kearney and Adrian Purtell, but then Danny McGuire put in a kick which ricocheted off a defender and Kevin Sinfield followed up to touch down.
Hardaker and McGuire returned to the starting line-up – along with Brett Delaney – after being rested for the win over Wakefield six days earlier.
Liam Sutcliffe – who was on loan at Bulls earlier in the season – dropped to the bench, along with Ian Kirke.
Ben Jones-Bishop was ruled out due to concussion and Ryan Bailey missed the game with a groin/back problem. Jamie Peacock was rested so Brad Singleton got a start at prop.
On nine minutes Leeds scored again when Burrow, McGuire and Sinfield linked up to find Ryan Hall on the left wing and he slipped out a brilliant inside pass which put Moon in, though Sinfield’s conversion attempt his a post after he had converted his own touchdown.
Three minutes later Leeds struck again when McGuire put on some footwork near the Bulls line and his step and dance carried him through for a fine solo try, with Sinfield adding the extras to make it 16-0.
And in the next set Kallum Watkins,Tom Briscoe, Hardaker and Burrow began a raid down the right flank, which ended with Hall going in from Moon’s pass on the other side to make it 20.
Sinfield couldn’t add the goal, but Leeds were 20-0 up after 14 minutes
It should have been even more on 22, but rather than Leeds being completely out of sight, Bulls – who hadn’t staged a serious attack to that point – gave themselves a lifeline.
Moon – who is running into impressive form – made a break which would have led to a try if he had passed inside to McGuire rather than outside to Hall.
The ball was moved across to Hardaker and he put in a kick close to the line which was intercepted by Lee Gaskell and the stand-off showed an impressive turn of speed to race almost the length of the field, just holding off Watkins’ desperate chase.
Luke Gale converted and then made a break which was only halted by a superb Hardaker tackle, but the attack was wasted when Gaskell hurled a long pass into touch.
After their blistering start Rhinos found it hard to keep the hammer down and errors began to creep in, though Bulls also managed to steady their ship and show the sort of resilience which was missing in the opening quarter.
Ian Kirke and McGuire both went close at the end of the first half, but there was nothing to report for the opening 10 minutes of the second, until Tom Briscoe touched down from Moon’s kick on the last.
Referee Robert Hick consulted the in-goal judge, who said no try but ruled there had been a double knock-on, so the scrum feed went to Leeds.
After all that, Hardaker ran across the line and fed Moon, who put Hall in for his second. Sinfield – having hit a post earlier – saw his conversion bounce away off the crossbar.
Hall completed his hat-trick – his second in three games – six minutes later – off another Moon pass after Sinfield – who converted – and Hardaker had handled.
That was the signal for coach Brian McDermott to give Sinfield a rest, with Sutcliffe coming on in his place,
It was Sutcliffe’s third game since returning from his Bradford loan spell and he has scored a try in each of them, on this occasion forcing his way over after good work by Mitch Achurch.
Watkins was quite quiet, but has a habit of scoring spectacular tries at Odsal. His 73rd minute touchdown was in that category as, running backwards for a spell, he shrugged off a posse ofg defenders on an unstoppable charge to the line.
Hardaker added the extras to the tries by Sutcliffe and Burrow, who went over from Carl Ablett’s break, but hit a post as he attempted to improve Watkins’.
Bulls only second half opportunity came on 63 when Gale’s pass was gathered by Kearney –off his head – and his pass should have put Danny Bridge over, but he dropped it with the line begging. Hicks did a decent job, the penalty count ending 5-4 in Rhinos’ favour (3-2 in the first half).
Craig Hall won the 221st Humberside derby for Hull KR with a drop goal 46 seconds from time that earned his side a thrilling 21-20 win over Hull FC.
The hosts had let a 10-point lead slip but Hall kept his cool to see off his former employers.