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Page last updated at 20:58 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 21:58 UK

Leeds Rhinos 20-20 Bradford Bulls

Leeds Rhinos (6) 20
Tries: Smith 2, Delaney, Sinfield Goals: Sinfield 2

Bradford Bulls (16) 20
Tries: Nero 2, Halley, Menzies Goals: Orford 2

Lee Smith
Smith made a stunning return to rugby league with two tries

Lee Smith made a fairytale return as champions Leeds staged a dramatic second-half fightback at Headingley to hold West Yorkshire rivals Bradford.

Leeds, 16-6 down at half-time, looked set for a fourth straight defeat when Chris Nero scored his second try for the Bulls 12 minutes after the break.

But Leeds hit back with three tries in 10 minutes through Brett Delaney, fit-again Kevin Sinfield and Smith.

It was Smith's second try in his first game back since switching from union.

The 23-year-old England international had signed off from his first spell with his home-town club last October with two tries in their third successive Grand Final triumph.

He had only returned to Leeds from his abortive move to rugby union with Wasps the previous day, but did not take long to make April fools of anyone who suspected that he might have lost his cutting edge in the 15-man code.

Bradford had taken the early initiative, stunning Leeds with three tries in the first 21 minutes, Nero's first effort being followed by scores from Dave Halley and Steve Menzies.

But, with Smith back and Sinfield fit for the first time in a month since injuring his thigh in the World Club Challenge defeat by Melbourne, Leeds at last showed the character of champions to claim a deserved share of the spoils.

There was little sign of the drama to come when veteran Bulls scrum-half Matt Orford orchestrated his side's early lead.

First, he sent the long-striding Nero through a gap on three minutes before combining with Heath L'Estrange and Paul Sykes to get Halley over at the corner.

Orford added one conversion, increasing his side's lead to 12-0 when Leeds full-back Brent Webb was penalised for an incorrect play-the-ball.

It then got even worse for the champions when loose forward Menzies took another crisp Orford pass to stretch out for a third Bradford try.

But Smith responded, taking a long pass from Danny McGuire to go over on 36 minutes and give his side hope.

That should have boosted Leeds' confidence but their passing and timing was still awry after the resumption, and Nero wrong-footed Delaney to extend the visitors' lead.


Crucially, as it turned out, Orford was off target for the third time with the goalkick, but things were still not going Leeds' way when centre Keith Senior was held up in what had a looked a certain score.

And the home side suffered a further blow when hooker Danny Buderus was sin-binned on 57 minutes for holding down Brett Kearney.

But the Rhinos pulled a try back while down to 12 men, Webb's half-break creating the position for Delaney, and with Leeds now throwing caution to the wind, the Bulls defence opened up invitingly for Sinfield.

He added the goal to his own try, narrowing the gap to four points, and the two sides were level on 75 minutes when Smith chased McGuire's kick to the corner, scoring with a spectacular pick-up and dive.

But Sinfield failed with the touchline conversion and, after two scruffy attempts from both teams to snatch it with drop goals, the hooter brought a fair outcome to a gripping encounter.

Leeds coach Brian McClennan said: "I don't think you can get surprised by this team. We hope it's a bit of a catalyst to kick on.

"We produced great comebacks last year. And, even with 10 minutes to go, I thought we were going to win it.

"When Buderus went off, everybody knew it was the last-chance saloon. And the crowd kept us in it. They were great for us. We didn't give them much to hang onto but that noise helped energise us.

"We're buoyant about that last quarter but, for the first three quarters, we were very poor."

Bradford Bulls coach Steve McNamara said: "It's a bit like watching your mother-in-law drive over a cliff in your brand new car. There are mixed emotions.

"We were very good for large periods and should have closed that game off. But we got a little bit anxious being in front, a couple of things went against us and we lost the momentum we'd built up.

"It was a point lost but we could quite easily have lost. Leeds came home with a wet sail and 14 points in rugby league isn't a lot when the momentum swings your way."

Leeds Rhinos: Webb, Smith, Delaney, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Bailey, Kirke, Jones-Buchanan, Sinfield.
Replacements: Lauitiiti, Burgess, Buderus, Ambler.

Bradford Bulls: Kearney, Halley, Platt, Nero, Reardon, Sykes, Orford, Lynch, L'Estrange, Scruton, Whitehead, Langley, Menzies.
Replacements: Hall, Godwin, Kopczak, Donaldson.

Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).

Attendance: 17,244.

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see also
Centre Smith rejoins Leeds Rhinos
31 Mar 10 |  Leeds
Wigan 24-4 Leeds
26 Mar 10 |  My Club
Bradford 19-12 Harlequins
26 Mar 10 |  My Club

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