Many Leeds University students will be well familiarised with Headingley Carnegie Stadium, home of rugby league club Leeds Rhinos.
Not that many will have attended more than one game however, what with the Super League season kicking off in summer exam time. However, most of us will have stood in the south terrace to watch the annual Varsity union game between Uni and Leeds Met.
Well, as popular as the growing Varsity showdown is becoming, the attendance in the compact Headingley is no match for a local derby. Welcome Bradford Bulls, arguably the Rhinos’ biggest rivals and on a relative slump for the past few seasons. A sturdy and vocal following can always be expected.
Leeds are no strangers to success either, but again are another team that have struggled to find form this season. Fifth place meets tenth, with everything to play for considering a route to the playoff stage of the season needs just a lowly eighth position.
There’s no need to attach a brand to pies
So, how to start such an important derby match? Get your mascot to abseil off the stadium roof and drop onto the pitch, as Ronnie the Rhino did to great effect. A fluffy, giant headed rhino plummeting down from the rainy heavens is sure to whet the appetite of a raucous rugby league crowd.
The game itself proved as entertaining as Ronnie’s dancing with the Leeds cheerleaders. Olivier Elima pulled the Bulls back to within a try of the Rhinos, much to the disgust of the home crowd, after Ryan Hall had opened the scoring. With no Sky cameras in the ground, controversial tries cannot be replayed for the benefit of all watching. Referee Steve Ganson therefore had no option but to give the touchdown.
Leeds responded well, but another Elima effort cancelled out Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s try. At half time the Rhinos led 12-10, but looked shaky.
Half time at any sports event is often the dull purgatory of sitting in silence, staring into space or pretending to appreciate the Under-5 local cheerleading squadron. This inevitability arose, and so I took to inspecting the décor of this wonderful little ground. Well, you can tell you’re up north when a section of the advertising boards simply reads ‘Pies’. There’s no need to attach a brand to pies; it’s a communal advert for the good of the local economy.
The drizzling weather came to reflect the second half, which proved to be a misery for the home side, as handling errors and a lack of discipline saw little in possession up the field. The discipline absence continued, Ganson awarding numerous penalties for basic infringements.
These penalties were to be the Rhinos’ downfall, as Bradford’s Patrick Ah Van kicked five goals to boost the winning cushion. With confidence high in the Bradford back line, they knew that punting their way to victory would be easier than wasting time and effort in search of six points.
A 12-18 finish in favour of the Bulls was clearly a fair result. Ronnie looked devastated.