IT was a day when the result was of little importance, but Bradford Bulls’ young side showed some positive signs against Super League opposition, as they lost 34-10 to Leeds Rhinos at Headingley in front of a sell-out crowd of nearly 20,000 fans.

The game had long been pencilled in as a deserved testimonial for Rhinos stalwart Jamie Jones-Buchanan but some shocking news that rocked the rugby league world last month gave yesterday’s encounter added significance.

Jones-Buchanan’s former Leeds teammate, and club legend, Rob Burrow, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease at the age of just 37.

It was therefore rightly decided that the game would act as a joint benefit match for the pair, with a chunk of the funds raised going towards an appeal set up for Burrow and his family.

Jones-Buchanan and Burrow both graced the pitch in the final moments of yesterday’s match, along with fellow icons from both sides.

Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire (Leeds) joined the likes of Robbie Hunter-Paul and Stuart Fielden (Bradford), as both clubs reminisced about their golden Super League eras.

As for the rest of the contest, it was Rhinos who showed their undoubted Super League class in the first half.

Second row Rhyse Martin was the star early on, with their first two tries.

After six minutes, great feet and a spin saw Brad Dwyer find space in the 22 and he fed the ball right to Martin who flew over for the score. He converted, before getting in on the act again five minutes later.

Great combination work saw Martin find right winger Harry Newman, who fed it back inside for the Australian to go over in the right corner. He missed a tough kick from the touchline in the swirling wind.

Bulls full back Brandon Pickersgill won his side’s first penalty after brilliantly wriggling out of a tricky situation near his own line.

That allowed Bulls to gain territory for their opening score. Great work by Liam Kirk through the middle drew Leeds men in. The ball was played left to Jordan Lilley and he passed to Ross Oakes, who crashed over.

Leeds bounced back quickly thanks to Newman's quick thinking. He was almost run out of play but just managed to push it back inside.

The loose ball was picked up by centre Liam Sutcliffe, who dashed over to score under the posts.

Then came the best try of the half. A four-man tackle on Konrad Hurrell failed to stop the Rhinos man, and his offload allowed full-back Jack Walker to slalom brilliantly through the middle.

He found Dwyer on his right, who outpaced the Bradford defence to score, as the visitors ended the half hanging on at 22-4 down.

Bulls made a great start to the second period though. After Oakes’ final pass to winger Joe Brown went awry, the visitors made no mistake from their resulting set.

Young hooker Tom Doyle shaped to pass from two metres out before ducking under the tackles to score a fine try. Lilley converted to bring Bulls within 12.

The atmosphere, which simmered nicely throughout, almost boiled over when Leeds gave away a couple of naughty penalties.

Brad Gallagher and Sam Hallas were both heavily involved in those handbags for Bulls, but the referee decided not to take any action.

Bradford could not take advantage of Leeds’ ill-discipline, and it was the hosts that scored next.

They broke through the middle well through Mikolaj Oledzki, with the ball eventually fed back for Callum McLelland to score.

Martin converted that before Leeds’ Richie Myler scored his side’s final try. A huge hit on Bulls’ Adam Rooks saw him lose the ball forward in his own 22.

Myler picked that up and strolled over to score in the left corner, before an excellent kick from Martin completed the scoring.

A host of legends from both sides then entered the field, as the game slowed down as a contest, somewhat unsurprisingly.

Burrow and Jones-Buchanan’s appearances received thunderous applause, while many of the crowd were in tears at the end after Burrow gave a speech thanking everyone for all their support, and his teammates for playing with him for one last time.

It was a day that was memorable for all involved. Players, staff, legends and fans. And of course, our best wishes go to both Jones-Buchanan and Burrow.

The former in his well-earned retirement and the latter in a fight which we can safely say he will never give up.


Bradford Bulls: Brandon Pickersgill, Greg Johnson, Adam Rooks, Ross Oakes, Joe Brown, Rowan Milnes, Jordan Lilley, Anthony England, Sam Hallas, Steve Crossley, Evan Hodgson, Brad Gallagher, Liam Kirk.

Interchanges: Harry Shackleton, David Foggin-Johnston, Ebon Scurr, Sam Smith, Thomas Doyle and Keelan Foster.

Leeds Rhinos: Jack Walker, Harry Newman, Liam Sutcliffe, Konrad Hurrell, Ash Handley, Rob Lui, Callum McLelland, Ava Seumanufagai, Brad Dwyer, Matt Prior, Stevie Ward, Rhyse Martin, Cameron Smith.

Interchanges: Adam Cuthbertson, Richie Myler, Mikolaj Oledzki, James Donaldson, Jack Broadbent, Alex Mellor, Rhys Evans.

Referee: Ben Thaler

Attendance: 19,560