Magic Mags rides to the Leeds Rhinos rescue

Danny McGuire scores a try.
Danny McGuire scores a try.
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Local hero Danny McGuire came up with the moment of the match as his testimonial game ended in a 24-24 stalemate at Headingley Carnegie

Slow-starting Leeds were 18-0 down after 24 minutes and trailed Bradford Bulls by 24-18 going into the final 10, but warmed the frozen crowd with a grandstand finish.

A Ryan Hall try put Rhinos back within a converted score of the visitors and they came up with just that as McGuire out-paced the cover from half-way and Kevin Sinfield added the extras.

Leeds scored five tries to four – only two of them being converted by Sinfield – but a draw was a fair result.

Rhinos were clearly the better side once they got going, but by that stage Bulls had introduced some of their fringe players off the bench.

Bradford were enthusiastic and well-drilled and they put everything into their defence, though they do lack strength in depth and they struggled when changes began to be made.

Leeds were poor in the opening half an hour and up and down after that, but their desire and character remains as strong as ever.

There is certainly plenty to work on and things they need to fix up, but that’s the point of trial games.

Leeds were caught cold early, made some errors in good field position and their timing was off especially in the first half, but they did play some good stuff in patches. Bulls opened the scoring after 90 seconds, following a penalty against Rhinos in their opening set for an incorrect play the ball.

Bulls were similarly punished in the set from the re-start and again soon afterwards as referee Robert Hicks cracked down in the same manner as during the previous week’s game between Wakefield and Featherstone.

It’s pretty obvious which page of the law book the referees have been on in pre-season and hopefully it tidies that area up when the real business starts next month – though there are areas that have more effect on the game as a spectacle that perhaps should be tackled first.

The opener was a nice piece of skill from the impressive Jarrod Sammut, who kicked ahead and regathered to swoop over.

Soon after he kicked in goal, Zak Hardaker dropped the ball as he brought it back into play and the No 6 picked up to grab his second score, Jamie Foster adding his second conversion to make it 12-0 after just seven minutes.

Leeds didn’t threaten until the 22nd minute when Sinfield broke through the middle, but Elliot Kear made a try saving tackle. On the next play, Hardaker’s pass – aimed at Joe Vickery – sailed into touch.

Rhinos were then penalised and in the resulting set Nick Scruton’s pass off the ground was taken by Brett Kearney, whose touchdown was improved by Foster to give the visitors a merited 18-0 advantage.

Ryan Hall couldn’t get the ball down at the corner off a pass by Carl Ablett, who was switched effectively into the centre after Joel Moon went off just before Kearney’s try.

Ablett then failed to find Hall with a pass which went into touch, but it was third time lucky as he broke clear from near his own line and found McGuire in support.

He cleverly kicked to the right and Vickery read it perfectly to collect the ball and scamper over, though Sinfield’s kick hit a post.

Rhinos had been off the pace up to that point, but they produced another try of quality just three minutes later which included star contributions from two of their Aussie imports.

Paul McShane and Jamie Peacock worked the ball to Mitch Achurch and his excellent offload found Kallum Watkins who supplied Vickery and he produced a thrilling diving finish at the corner for a second unconverted try.

It is a shame more wasn’t seen of Moon, though his injury – a blow to the head – isn’t believed to be serious.

Initial signs are that both Vickery and Achurch will shape up as valuable recruits.

Vickery has scored a brace of tries in each of his two trial games and is a good finisher, with size and power on his side.

Achurch made an impact off the bench against Bulls. He has a nice off-load, he ran hard and he induced Bulls’ defence into giving away a costly penalty leading up to the opening try.

Vickery’s second try made it 18-8 at the break and Rhinos could have cut the gap even further straight afterwards after good handling by McShane, Sinfield and McGuire, but Sammut snatched Watkins’ final pass; then Sinfield ghosted through but was halted just short.

Hardaker has been a revelation since switching to full-back, but he had a rare off day and another error almost proved costly as he knocked on near his own line, but Sammut was held up over the whitewash on the resulting attack.

Chris Clarkson is one of the Rhinos players with a point to prove this year after a disappointing 2012 campaign.

He had to settle for a place on the bench, but was one of Leeds’ better players on the day and his clean break set up their third try, for the supporting Rob Burrow on the hour.

Sinfield found the target this time to reduce the gap to four points and at that stage it looked as though Leeds would kick on.

But Sammut counter-attacked from close to his own line and though he was nailed by an excellent Hardaker tackle, Leeds were then penalised in front of their posts.

Bradford, to their credit, opted for a tap and in that set Kearney twisted over and Foster maintained his 100 per cent record with the boot.

Leeds kept at it and they gave themselves a glimmer of hope with 10 minutes left when Hall got over at the corner for an unconverted try from Burrow’s long pass after Clarkson and Sinfield had handled.

And then came the moment all the Leeds fans had been waiting and hoping for as Clarkson teed up Ablett and he found McGuire, the man of the moment outpacing the defence from half-way for a spectacular try which was converted by Sinfield to level the scores. The penalties were shared 7-7.

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