CURRENT LEEDS Rhinos coach Brian McDermott hit the headlines 20 years ago today.
McDermott, then a prop-forward for Bradford Bulls and Great Britain, was sent off in a stormy Challenge Cup semi-final against Rhinos at Huddersfield, on March 29, 1997.
Leeds were beaten 24-10 as Bulls booked a place at Wembley for a second successive season, but McDermott’s red card was the game’s biggest talking point.
The former Royal Marine and professional heavyweight boxer was sent off after flattening Terry Newton and connecting with two other Rhinos five minutes from time as an ill-tempered game exploded in an angry finish.
Referee Russell Smith had a busy afternoon and it was 11 Rhinos versus 12 Bulls for a spell, which proved a turning point in the game.
Leeds were embarrassed by Bradford in the 1996 semi-final on the same ground, but gave a better account of themselves a year later.
They took an early lead when Phil Hassan sent Tony Kemp over from Graham Holroyd’s kick and Leeds were on top until 10 minutes before the break, when James Lowes scored off his own chip.
Hassan and Bulls’ Sonny Nickle were sin-binned for fighting soon afterwards and then Leeds’ Richie Blackmore was yellow carded for interference.
Paul Loughlin took advantage of the extra man to score Bulls’ second try just before the break and Steve McNamara went over at the start of the second period. The future Bradford and England coach also kicked a couple of conversions and a penalty to make it 18-4.
Martin Masella’s touchdown – converted by Holroyd – gave Leeds hope before Paul Medley crossed late on, Paul Cook converting, to send Bulls back to the Twin Towers.
There was a war of words between Bradford boss Matthew Elliott and Leeds’ Dean Bell after the game.
Elliott was delighted with the win, but claimed his players had been in “great danger” on the field and insisted: “There were a lot of fat lips, head knocks, slight concussions and stitches in the mouths of my players back in the dressing room.
“In the end it was us who ended up having a player sent-off, which I felt was ludicrous in light of some of the things that had gone on before”.
Bell responded: “You’ve just got to put up with these things and behave a bit better than the Bradford coach, who was yelling and screaming at the referee at half-time.”