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Super League Match Preview: Leeds Rhinos v Bradford Bulls

Date: Friday August 1.

Venue: Headingley Carnegie Stadium.

Kick-Off: 8:00 PM.

Teams

Leeds Rhinos: Zak Hardaker, Ben Jones-Bishop, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Paul Aiton, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Stevie Ward, Brett Delaney, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Mitch Achurch, Tom Briscoe, Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton, Elliott Minchella, Josh Walters, Robbie Ward, Ash Handley.

Bradford Bulls: Matty Blythe, Jay Pitts, Tom Olbison, Elliot Kear, Luke Gale, Danny Williams, James Donaldson, Adam O’Brien, Alex Mellor, Adam Henry, Jordan Baldwinson, Joe Arundel, Dale Ferguson, Nathan Conroy, Danny Addy, Lee Gaskell, Adam Sidlow, Manase Manuokafoa, Jamal Fakir.

Preview

Leeds Rhinos go head-to-head with local rivals Bradford Bulls for the last time on Friday before the Bulls are relegated to the Kingstone Press Championship in 2015. Brian McDermott’s Rhinos come into the the clash at Headingley boosted by last Friday’s hard fought win over Salford, meanwhile the Bulls will be in confident mood following a stunning 16-8 victory over champions Wigan Warriors on Sunday.

Leeds are second in the table two points behind league leaders St Helens, while Bradford were already relegated prior to last weekend’s win over the Warriors.

The current situation is a far cry from past derbies which often saw both clubs battling for a place on top of Super League. Despite this, the relegated Bulls will be looking to give their fans something to be proud of in the last league clash between the two sides for at least a year.

The Rhinos ran out comfortable victors at Odsal earlier in the season, thrashing Bradford 46-6, although the Bulls did claim a dramatic 18-all draw at Leeds in 2013.

Teenager Ash Handley, who has scored 19 tries in 17 games for the under 19’s side this season, looks set to make his first team debut after being named in McDermott’s 19-man squad for Friday’s encounter. The former Oulton Raiders junior has excelled since being pushed from the wing into the centres ahead of the current campaign and looks like he could be another exciting product of the Leeds academy.

The Rhinos will be without injured trio Joel Moon (knee), Carl Ablett (elbow), Jamie Peacock (back), while Kevin Sinfield is suspended and Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall have been rested for the game.

But McDermott will welcome back Mitch Achurch, Ryan Bailey,Ian Kirke and Brett Delaney from injury, while Ben Jones-Bishop earns a deserved recall to the squad.

For Bradford, James Lowes has included Scotland international Dale Ferguson along with Nathan Conroy in his 19, with the pair replacing the injured Brett Kearney and Jamie Foster, while Danny Williams looks likely to face Leeds, who handed him his Super League debut in 2006, after extending his loan from Salford until the end of the season.

Prediction

Leeds will be hoping to continue their challenge for the league leaders’ shield on Friday but have rested a number of big names ahead of next week’s massive cup semi final against Warrington. Bradford will be no pushovers and are beginning to play with some freedom now their relegation has been confirmed, so this should be a tight encounter. However, the home side should have the edge in the end. Tip: Leeds by 16.

20. Sports Journalism student at UCLan | Morecambe FC programme contributor | Dewsbury Rams media team | Leeds Rhinos fan.

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