Leeds Rhinos 34 Bradford Bulls 16
Some things in life you just cannot legislate for.
Such as the breakdown in communication between team-mates at crucial moments on a rugby league field.
When Zak Hardaker’s high bomb dropped deep into Bradford territory in the 49th minute, Jarrod Sammut and Karl Pryce had ample time and space to deal with it between them.
Instead, they both attempted to catch the ball, forcing a spillage which proved fatal.
Kallum Watkins, whose second try had put Leeds in front three minutes earlier, scooped up possession and sent replacement hooker Shaun Lunt racing over the line.
Danny McGuire and Kevin Sinfield later punished further mistakes in the Bulls rearguard to give them a victory that was far more comfortable than it should have been.
The scores were tied at 6-6 at the break but the loss of Brett Kearney at half-time to concussion, after he had played such a pivotal role in the opening 40 minutes, was a blow from which Bradford – who missed the chance to take over fifth spot from their hosts – never recovered.
Sammut, picked ahead of Ben Jeffries at stand-off, was deployed at full back for the second half and Leeds gradually assumed control, despite the sin-binning of Sinfield.
The Rhinos did enough, although this was no vintage display from them.
Then again, it did not need to be.
The Bulls were architects of their downfall during the second half but their spirit was never in doubt.
On Headingley’s Western Terrace stood over 3,500 Bulls fans, a heaving mass of bodies working themselves into a frenzy and gradually singing themselves hoarse.
Leeds had made a wonderful gesture by agreeing to donate all proceeds from tickets sold to Bradford supporters back to their rivals.
The money will go to assist the Bulls during their current plight and was expected to raise at least £50,000.
That said much for the affection in which Bradford are held, even by their deadliest rivals, and confirmed that Leeds are not among the clubs looking to vote the Bulls out of Super League.
After all, where would the competition be without this special fixture? Few derbies can compare.
Despite the ferocity of the rivalry, there is also a mutual respect, as evidenced by Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington’s gesture.
Leeds were still bubbling from their Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final win over Wigan six days earlier, but the Bulls scored with their first meaningful attack.
Taking a neat short offload from Heath L’Estrange on halfway, Kearney drove at the heart of the Leeds defence before finding Michael Platt with an astute offload.
Platt showed intelligence to spot Elliott Whitehead in support to his left and a short pass sent the second-rower powering clear from 20 metres to ground the ball just wide of the left-hand post.
Gale’s simple conversion left the Bulls 6-0 up, much to the delight of the large and raucous visiting contingent.
It was the just the start that Bradford wanted and flooded Mick Potter’s men with the belief that victory was theirs for the taking.
“Champi-ones, champ-iones,” came the retort from Headingley’s South Stand.
The Bulls, buoyed by their early score, continued to probe with Gale, typically, emerging as the creative fulcrum.
Kearney, similarly influential, required treatment after a heavy collision in a tackle in the 15th minute.
He was soon on his feet, however, and found Pryce with a neat pass which almost sent the big winger down the left flank.
The Bulls were largely comfortable but in the 19th minute they were left grateful after Jamie Jones-Buchanan hacked the ball forward and was set to scamper clear to score before referee Steve Ganson called back play for an earlier knock-on.
Moments later, Sammut committed the cardinal sin of failing to find touch with a penalty, gifting possession back to Leeds.
Punishment quickly followed.
The Rhinos immediately built the field position to fashion a sweeping move which saw rookie Stevie Ward break inside the right channel. He evaded the challenge of Kearney and found McGuire in support.
The long-serving Rhinos playmaker was then denied by a superb last-ditch tackle from Pryce but Leeds quickly recycled the ball and some slick handling from Rob Burrow, Sinfield and McGuire allowed Watkins to go over in the right corner.
Sinfield added the extras to level the scores, and the Bulls soon found themselves under the cosh.
The pendulum continued to swing to and fro, and the visitors looked to have conjured a brilliant score in the 26th minute.
Kearney was the orchestrator once more, breaking from deep before finding Sammut to his left.
Sammut kept the move flowing with a swift offload out to Pryce on the left flank and his lofted pass was caught and grounded by the Australian, who plunged over the line.
Ganson, however, ruled that Pryce’s pass was forward and no try was given.
Eight minutes before the break, Gale almost went over after some delightful dummy running took him within inches of Leeds’ line.
Sammut then became embroiled in an off-the-ball spat as chances grew scarce as the first half progressed, leaving the scores locked at 6-6 at the break.
The Bulls had Leeds pinned back towards their own line moments before the interval hooter but Tom Burgess knocked on after a pass from Chev Walker following good work from Shaun Ainscough.
Having picked up a knock earlier in the game, Kearney did not re-emerge for the second half and six minutes after the restart Leeds were ahead for the first time.
Sinfield found Hardaker to his right and the promising centre sent Watkins clear after he evaded Sammut’s tackle.
Three minutes later it got worse for the Bulls and Sammut from Hardaker’s high bomb, which was picked up by Watkins and his pass sent Lunt over for his 100th career try.
Sinfield converted both scores to leave the Rhinos 18-6 up but the Bulls refused to lie down and came back strongly.
Sinfield was sin-binned shortly before the hour mark for tackling a player without the ball but could Bradford make their numerical advantage pay?
Ainscough went close after taking a pass from Gale inside the right channel and then Manase Manuokafoa was held up.
Leeds, typically, hit the Bulls with a vicious sucker-punch moments later went Hardaker took a delicate offload from prop Kylie Leuluai and scampered clear for a try he converted himself with Sinfield still off the field.
With ten minutes remaining, the Bulls had a glimmer of hope when Manuokafoa found Olivier Elima and he burrowed over from close range for a try which Gale converted.
Immediately, Gale’s pass to Jamie Langley was dropped and McGuire gleefully picked up possession and raced over from 20 metres for a try converted by Sinfield.
Pryce then touched down in the left corner for a try which Gale could not convert before Sinfield scooped up possession after another dropped ball in the Bradford rearguard.
It was that kind of night.