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Five-star McGuire shatters Bradford Bulls as Leeds add to Magic Weekend domination
Bradford Bulls 22, Leeds Rhinos 37
Four Magic Weekend defeats to Leeds and counting.
The Bulls came up short again yesterday in Super League’s annual jamboree, this time at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium after three previous losses in Cardiff.
You could not fault the desire from Mick Potter’s sweat-drenched players, who gave everything in the searing heat.
They matched the champions for the opening 40 minutes of an energy-sapping encounter and went in at the break level at 18-18.
Despite battering Leeds’ line for long periods after the restart, they lacked the guile to unlock their great rivals’ defence and were gradually punished.
Take nothing away from Danny McGuire, a master craftsman who breached Bradford’s line five times.
That is some feat at this level.
The Bulls are a well-organised unit who lack nothing in spirit but it is not being disrespectful to say they do not possess a player of McGuire’s ilk.
When Rob Burrow scampered clear of a clutch of Bulls defenders in the first half and sent McGuire powering clear for his third try, the score had an unmistakable air of quality about it.
It was about a touch of class and a natural finisher – so often the difference between success and failure.
Burrow provided the former, while McGuire again proved he is the latter.
The Bulls have now won only one Magic Weekend encounter in six attempts and yesterday’s reverse left them outside the top eight.
That success was chiselled on aggression and obstinate defending. It came at the height of the club’s Quest for Survival campaign, when fans and supporters united to help raise over £500,000.
If Potter’s men could beat the Rhinos seven weeks ago, why not at a sun-drenched Etihad Stadium yesterday?
Yet Kopczak sustained an ankle injury in the first collision of the match as he was tackled by Kylie Leuluai and Shaun Lunt. The Bulls prop limped off in clear discomfort and was replaced by Manase Manuokafoa.
Leeds soon led when some fine dummy running from Brent Webb saw him find Leuluai on Bradford’s ten-metre line.
The veteran prop spotted McGuire and showed intelligence to usher the Rhinos playmaker over from close range.
Kevin Sinfield added the extras but the Bulls gradually steadied themselves and were rewarded in the eighth minute after enjoying back-to-back sets.
First Ben Jeffries’ short pass to Purtell saw the centre denied but from the next set a smart pass from Diskin, winner of four Super League titles during his time at Leeds, sent Elliott Whitehead burrowing over from close range.
The score was awarded after deliberation from video referee Steve Ganson and Luke Gale booted the simplest of conversions, levelling the scores at 6-6.
That try poured confidence into the Bulls and they scored again four minutes later when Gale’s neat pass found Jeffries ten metres out.
Jeffries sold a Leeds defender a delightful dummy to scuttle over the line and Gale’s goal put Bradford 12-6 up.
Gale was causing havoc with his clever kicking game and in the 18th minute he flighted a delivery into the left channel.
Jamie Peacock’s errant attempt to field the danger, under some serious pressure from Kearney, saw him fumble the ball and it ran loose.
Diskin – despite suspicions he was offside – grounded the ball for a try awarded after deliberation from video ref Ganson. The raucous contingent of Bulls followers roared their approval and Gale’s third goal from as many attempts merely added to the feeling that this was Bradford’s day.
Leeds were stunned and responded in kind when master craftsman McGuire took a pass from Webb and evaded the attention of Gale to score from ten metres out. But was that pass from Webb not clearly forward, Thierry Alibert?
Leeds did not care a jot and Sinfield’s conversion left the scores at 18-12 in the Bulls’ favour.
The Bulls were largely in the ascendancy and Tom Burgess, Heath L’Estrange and Walker soon entered the fray.
L’Estrange, an influential presence upon his introduction, was denied a try by the video referee in the 27th minute after being held up by a thicket of Leeds defenders.
And in the 31st minute, Leeds ripped the Bulls apart to draw level with a converted try from McGuire.
Burrow, with a combination of searing pace and clever footwork, embarked on a brilliant run from deep inside his own half, leaving a clutch of Bradford defenders in his wake.
He expertly guided the supporting McGuire racing clear from 30 metres out for his hat-trick try, which Sinfield converted to tie the scores at 18-18.
Injuries have robbed McGuire of his pace of old but he was still too quick for Karl Pryce.
Nevertheless, the Bulls began the second half on the front foot. Burgess almost drove over the line within two minutes of the restart and L’Estrange began to combine effectively with Gale and Jeffries.
But Leeds forged ahead in the 48th minute when Sinfield was twice involved in a move which saw him provide the final pass to send McGuire racing clear.
The try went ‘upstairs’ again and Ganson gave Leeds the green light for a try which Sinfield converted with ease.
Ganson then rightly turned away an appeal from McGuire in the 55th minute after he failed to ground the ball.
Gale almost did likewise moments later, being halted by Leuluai’s crucial tackle, and Diskin was then replaced holding his right arm in the 57th minute.
But the Bulls continued to probe and Gale and Jeffries almost combined to send Kearney over on the hour mark.
Olivier Elima then tried his luck from dummy half but was held up and moments later Leeds knocked on, giving the Bulls head and feed at a scrum and pin their rivals back towards their own line. Was all that field position to count for nothing?
With 15 minutes remaining, Peacock dropped the ball under pressure from Whitehead, L’Estrange worked the ball out to the left flank and Pryce was there to touch down. Ganson refused to award a try, deeming it to be a knock-on from Whitehead.
The Bulls hammered away for long periods but could not make it pay. Typically, Leeds hit them with a vicious sucker-punch in the 70th minute when Carl Ablett powered over inside the right channel.
Sinfield added the extras and then dropped a late goal to put Leeds home and dry, before McGuire swapped passes with Webb to claim his fifth try and Sinfield maintained his 100 per cent record with the boot.
That ensured Elliot Kear's late try, when he showed impressive strength to burrow over, meant little.