There has been too much talk of arrogance in relation to Leeds supporters over the past few days, and as I said in my article yesterday I'd like to think of us as confident rather than arrogant. Make no mistake, thursday night will be a 'battle royal' but I honestly expect that Leeds will come out of the game as victors. Here's why;|
The McGuire Factor
Whether it is just mind games, or not, the announcement that Leeds will see the return of the talismanic 'boy wonder' will be a big boost to players and supporters alike. McGuire, returning almost two weeks earlier than planned after a successful groin operation, brings mercurial and unpredictable elements to the Rhinos play.
I've been impressed with Rob Burrow who has done a decent job in Dannys stead, but I'll be mightily relieved to see his return at Odsal, even if it is from the bench.
Danny has the measure of Bradford, knows the importance of a victory against the old enemy to the Leeds fans, and will be desperate to prove his return to fitness with a couple of good spells.
Last Meeting At Odsal
The last meeting between the sides at Odsal resulted in a 26-12 win for Leeds. In front of a crowd of 23,375, Leeds wowed travelling support with an early June dominance. Tries from Senior, Dunemann, Poching and Lauiti'iti, along with five goals from the boot of the skipper, saw the Rhinos home to a comfortable victory and sent the Bulls supporters away to cry into their McDonalds.
Last years win broke a six game losing streak in away games to the Bulls, a win on thursday would be the first time that the Rhinos have managed back-to-back wins in Bradford. The hoodoo has been broken.
The Rhinos currently sit happily at the top of Superleague, a position that we have occupied since Round two. With the only 100% record in the top flight, we have so far overcome top sides Hull FC and St. Helens. The Bulls got off to a poor start with losses to Wakefield and Widnes in the opening rounds. They then just sneaked past Wigan with a comeback to beat all comebacks and have won their most recent three games. The are four points behind Leeds with four wins.
Leeds are scoring an average of 39 points a game while conceeding just 11, an average of +28. Bradford, on the other hand, are scoring an average of 32 whilst conceeding 23, giving them an average of +9. If both sides score their average, Leeds win. If both sides conceed their average, Leeds win.
How can there be any other result?
The 2004 Grand Final
The last meeting between the sides in any competition was in last seasons finale at Old Trafford.
WHo can forget that moment of elation as Danny McGuire crossed for the try to give the Rhinos a 16-8 lead and clinch their first ever Superleague title. The crowd of 65,537, along with millions watching on TV across the nation, saw the team of the season triumph over their closest rivals to lift the silverware.
This was a massive boost for the Rhinos, and will have given them the confidence that they need to know that they can beat the Bulls when it matters. Thursday night matters and the lads will believe that they can manage a repeat.
The Iestyn Factor
There is no getting away from the fact that Iestyn Harris is an 'Inverted Midas'. Everything he leaves alone turns to gold!
When the phoney Welshman left the Rhinos they started to turn on the style, show signs of massive improvement and are now Superleague and Wold Club Champions. As soon as he left the Welsh Rugby Union side they became Grand Slam and Six Nations Champions. The lad from Oldham is a jinx.
There appears to be a lot wrong behind the scenes at Odsal, and the arrival of Harris seemed to be the catalyst that sparked the problems. My understanding is that the players that helped the Bulls to victory after victory last year are pretty upset that a failed Rugby Union player earns two or three times what they do...and who can blame them.