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Bradford Bulls knock Leeds Rhinos out of Challenge Cup

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Veteran coach John Kear masterminded another Challenge Cup shock by guiding Championship club Bradford Bulls to a 24-22 win over Leeds Rhinos in a gripping sixth-round tie at Odsal.

Kear took Sheffield Eagles and Hull to Cup final glory and his part-time Bulls team are now two wins away from an unlikely trip to Wembley after compounding the misery of the Rhinos in the wake of the sacking of Dave Furner.

Leeds interim coach Richard Agar, who was Kear’s right hand man when Hull beat Leeds in Cardiff in 2005, was on the wrong end of this remarkable upset in his first match in charge of the 2017 Super League champions, whose fortunes have hit a modern-time low.

The first West Yorkshire derby since 2014, when the Bulls were last in Super League, drew a crowd of 10,258, the biggest at this stage of the competition for seven years and no one left before the thrilling finale.

To compound the Rhinos’ misery, Bradford’s victory was led by former Leeds duo Jordan Lilley, who is playing on loan from his parent club, and hooker Sam Hallas, who scored one of his side’s four tries.

There was an early warning sign for the Rhinos when Bradford’s young prop Liam Kirk tore a huge hole in their defence, only for fellow front rower Steve Crossley to lose the ball in the next tackle.

Leeds opened the scoring through full-back Tui Lolohea, who finished off a break by hooker Brad Dwyer, and looked to be heading for a routine victory when half-back Callum McLelland, surprisingly chosen ahead of the experienced Richie Myler, added another in the 13th minute, which was again converted by Liam Sutcliffe as the Super League side led 12-4.

But Bradford had demonstrated their attacking flair when winger Dalton Grant took in Lilley’s cut-out pass to score an early try and they turned the game on its head with a purple patch that brought them three tries in 11 minutes.

Half-back Rowan Milnes hoisted a high kick for veteran Chev Walker to touch down and produced a half-break for Hallas to score before loose forward Mikey Wood crashed over on 33 minutes.

Milnes, who took over the goalkicking after skipper Elliot Minchella had missed with his first two attempts, converted two of the tries and added a 40-metre penalty to stretch his side’s lead to 22-12.

Sutcliffe pulled two points back with a penalty on the stroke of half-time, when Bradford led 22-14, and Leeds cut the gap to just four points when McLelland forced his way over from close range for his second try seven minutes into the second half.

Bradford were then forced into some desperate defence to keep their lead intact and Milnes eased their growing anxiety with a penalty.

Lilley had a chance to seal it with a drop goal but his kick was charged down and that enabled Leeds to launch one last desperate bid for victory.

Briscoe showed his strength by forcing his way over at the corner after leaping high to retrieve Sutcliffe’s high kick three minutes from the end for a try that cut the gap to just two points, but Sutcliffe’s conversion attempt from the touchline rebounded off an upright.

Leeds back rower Cameron Smith then crossed in the final minute for what would have been the match-winner but referee Ben Thaler ruled it out for an obstruction.

Topics:
Leeds Rhinos
Bradford Bulls
Challenge Cup
Rugby League

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