Bradford Bulls record famous victory over Rhinos but battle is not over yet (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford Bulls record famous victory over Leeds Rhinos but battle is not over yet
Bradford Bulls 12 Leeds Rhinos 4
A result of far greater significance will be announced at 11.30am this morning but, for now, Bulls fans can bask in the glory of victory against their deadliest rivals.
The majority of the 20,821 crowd turned up at the famous old stadium hoping to see a rugby league institution saved from the brink of financial ruin.
Two points and the derby honours would also have been nice, and Mick Potter’s men duly delivered at an emotionally fraught and rain-soaked Odsal, inflicting a third straight defeat on the Rhinos.
The Bulls, minus ten players through injury and suspension, outfought and ultimately outplayed the Super League and World Club champions.
Chief executive Ryan Duckett told Potter’s squad on Thursday there is every chance they may not get paid this month.
Cue uncertainty, angst and presumably no little anger.
So Potter’s players deserve immense credit for ekeing out a famous victory against their aristocratic neighbours.
At times events on the pitch almost felt secondary to what was happening off it.
Late last night, administration staff were sifting through scores of pledges and counting the cash from the gate receipts from a bumper crowd.
Whether the total figure will hit the £500,000 that is needed to meet current liabilities to the bank, the taxman and the Bulls’ 150-strong workforce, remains to be seen.
Administration is an entirely realistic prospect for the Bulls should the ‘Quest for Survival’ figure not be reached.
Heading into the game, a figure approaching £400,000 was understood to have been pledged by around 2,000 Bulls fans and members of the wider rugby league family.
The money men will do the maths this morning and make a decision that could reverberate for years.
The Bulls largely dominated field position during the first half but, whatever they threw at Leeds, they could not find a breakthrough.
Again, off the field, the bigger picture was hard to ignore.
Chairman Peter Hood and fellow director Andrew Bennett took their seats in the Tetley’s Stand shortly before kick-off.
They are holding firm in the power struggle which is beginning to unfold at Odsal, for the time being at least.
Chris Caisley, Hood’s predecessor, this week told the Telegraph & Argus that Hood and Bennett should go immediately.
Caisley was not in attendance last night due to a prior engagement but he has revealed his intention to undertake a root and branch review of the club and is now plotting his next move.
He wants to formulate a business plan he believes could attract the necessary investment to save the club.
But the clock is ticking and, even if the first £500,000 is raised, the same amount is needed again to pay off yet more liabilities.
Amid all the uncertainty surrounding the club, it should be noted that the Bulls put in a performance dripping with guts, courage and no little self-belief last night.
Jeffries’ educated boot and Jarrod Sammut’s willingness to run at the heart of the Leeds defence hinted at the possibilities on offer.
However, Karl Pryce succumbed to injury after just ten minutes and was replaced by Danny Addy as rain began to fall.
That meant Adrian Purtell was switched to the right flank and Elliott Whitehead in the centres alongside Keith Lulia.
Five minutes later, Leeds forged ahead when full back Brent Webb sent Zak Hardaker over in the left corner for a try which skipper Kevin Sinfield failed to convert.
Time and again, Jeffries’ boot offered Bradford an attacking threat.
Jamie Langley constantly drove his team forward and in the 25th minute another piece of enterprising play from Sammut saw him send a teasing grubber kick past a couple of Leeds defenders, regain possession and find Whitehead in support. His progress was halted on Leeds’ 20-metre line but the Bulls were undeniably in the ascendancy.
Was all that enterprise to count for nothing?
Some fine dummy running from Jeffries led to him finding Bryn Hargreaves with a neat flat pass but the prop knocked on just ten metres from the line.
Leeds, themselves missing a clutch of players, most notably Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire, looked rattled.
A lesser side could easily have buckled under such intense pressure. Yet the champions held firm again when Ainscough batted a kick back and Brett Kearney narrowly failed to connect.
You could not fault the commitment or endeavour from the Bulls but the cutting edge was sadly lacking.
Nine minutes after the restart the Bulls went agonisingly close as Jeffries found Whitehead advancing at pace in the right channel but he was denied by Hall’s saving tackle.
Tom Burgess enjoyed a fine contribution and certainly made his presence felt, as did Phil Joseph when he came on during the second half.
He was instrumental in the 55th minute when the Bulls earned a penalty and another set of six deep in Leeds territory.
Despite coming close once again, the Bulls could not find a way through the Leeds defence.
Tensions boiled over shortly after the hour mark when Elima was sinbinned for dissent and moments later a flare-up involving several players led to referee Ben Thaler speaking to Heath L’Estrange and Rhinos prop Darrell Griffin.
The 12 men of Bradford were level soon after as Ainscough’s fine break down the left channel created the field position for the ball to be worked across the pitch.
L’Estrange stabbed an intelligent grubber kick behind the Leeds defence, Purtell missed it but Langley was there to touch down for a try which Sammut converted.
Belief flooded through the Bulls and soon after Jeffries scampered through for a clinical score after a kick caused havoc in the Leeds defence.
Sammut again converted and then Addy almost sent Ainscough clear before Purtell raced over the line in the closing stages, only for the score to be ruled out.
Hargreaves was dismissed late on for a spear tackle on Jamie Peacock, which only added to the drama – and you can be sure there will be plenty of twists and turns yet to come.