Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
The Challenge Cup final, the jewel of the English Rugby League crown hit Wales as Bradford ran out 22-20 winners over Leeds.
A packed to the rafters Millennium Stadium didn?t have to wait long for some action. Just minutes into the match Radford came away with the ball from a Leeds tackle and proceeded to run 40 metres to score. The video referee however ruled that Radford had stripped the ball and ruled no try.
Repeat sets and sustained pressure led up to the first try in the match just minutes later. A charging Vagana offloaded onto Vaikona who stepped his way into space drawing in the Leeds defender and putting Robbie Paul over to score.
Leeds worked their way back into the match through a piece of Brilliance from Gary Connolly. The Leeds star took the ball from dummy half and going across field ran through a hole and forced his way over. The video referee ruled the ball had been grounded properly and the scores were tied at 6 all.
The game remained deadlocked as Bradford and Leeds traded penalty goals until a Leeds bomb found the hands of Calderwood who hit the ball back to Chris McKenna to score. The video referee eventually ruled that McKenna had found a blade of grass in his struggle with Hape to ground the ball.
As the match settled down into a dogfight Leeds chances took a huge blow when Rob Burrow was taken from the field after a heavy tackle. Things got worse for Leeds when Bradford scored on the stroke of halftime. Deacon got a beautiful run around ball and then kicked the ball into the in goal with precision for Vanikolo to pounce on. Deacon followed up his good work converting from out wide to tie the scores up at 14 all at halftime.
Bradford took the lead again striking early in the second half. The Bulls got a repeat set and capitalised on the pressure as Jamie Peacock barged his way over the Leeds line. The video referee once again was used to check the grounding this time ruling a try to Bradford.
While Bradford continued to pack on the pressure they could only manage a penalty goal. The Bulls inability to take advantage cost them when Leeds forward David Furner bulldozed his way over to bring the Rhinos within 2 points and very much back into the contest.
In the end it was a grandstand finish as both sides showed desperation to take out the win. Leeds may look back and think what if though after opting not to take a shot at goal from a penalty in the Bradford half.
Bradford however deserved their win. They were able to dominate big portions of the match and then absorbed huge pressure in the last 10 minutes as Leeds had repeat set after repeat set in Bulls territory.