Leeds Rhinos Bygones: Milestone derby faces an uncertain future

Paul Sterling.
Paul Sterling.
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ON FRIDAY Bradford Bulls (or Northern as they once were) will take to the field at Headingley Carnegie for the 120th time in league action.

With Bulls already doomed to relegation into the Kingstone Press Championship next year, it will be their final visit to Leeds, for a season at least.

Of their previous appearances there, Bulls/Northern have won 39 times, with 73 defeats and seven draws.

Overall in the league – at all venues, including play-offs and Grand Finals – the two clubs have met 248 times. Leeds have won 137 of those games, with 12 draws and 99 defeats.

Leeds’ highest score against Bradford was a 75-18 victory at Headingley in the 1931-32 season, while Bulls’ best was more recent.

Their first Super League trip to Leeds resulted in a 56-18 victory for Bradford, which is still the most points Leeds have conceded at home in the summer era.

Bulls’ highest Super League score against Rhinos came in 2001, when they romped to a 62-18 success at their temporary Valley Parade home.

Bulls held the upper hand at the start of the summer era, winning the first four Super League encounters and rattling up more than 50 points home and away in 1996.

Rhinos’ first Super League victory over Bulls was one of their most memorable, at Odsal on April 12, 1998. Under new boss Graham Murray, in front of an Easter Sunday crowd of 19,188, Leeds matched fire with fire, rocking Bulls with their aggressive approach as Darren Fleary, Anthony Farrell and Marc Glanville – in particular – took the battle to Bradford’s big pack. Bulls captain Graeme Bradley was one of the victims, suffering a broken nose early in the game. Iestyn Harris scored a hat-trick and Richie Blackmore and Paul Sterling also crossed. Harris added three goals.

Bulls’ Sonny Nickle was sent off late on following a clash with Blackmore, who was sin-binned. Matt Calland touched down for Bulls and Steve McNamara tagged on the extras.

Leeds had to wait until the following season, June 18, 1999, for their first home Super League win over Bradford.

That was another memorable occasion, with Leeds turning on the style to triumph 45-16, in front of a huge crowd of 21,666.

Bulls were unbeaten in 11 games and took the lead through the first of Henry Paul’s two touchdowns, but Andy Hay scored a hat-trick for Leeds and Leroy Rivett, Paul Sterling, Adrian Morley and Glanville also crossed the whitewash – with Harris kicking eight goals and Daryl Powell landing a drop – in one of Rhinos’ best performances under Murray.

Bulls’ other try scorer was David Boyle. McNamara and Henry Paul kicked a goal each.

Ryan Hall in action during the Rugby League World Cup. PIC: PA

International rugby league to return to Leeds, Hull and Liverpool in 2018