Hull FC 14 Leeds Rhinos 18: Rhinos clinch play-off spot against Wigan

IF THERE is any real justice, crestfallen Lee Radford should tomorrow finally receive some positive news for the first time in 72 hours.

Having seen his uncharacteristic moment of madness on Saturday result not only in a painful Hull defeat but, significantly, his club miss out on the coveted top four, surely the gutted prop's punishment is complete?

Banning him for this weekend's enticing sudden-death play-off with city rivals Hull KR, and perhaps more, would be too much to bear for their disconsolate club captain and completely unnecessary given the mitigating circumstances.

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Hopefully the RFL disciplinary panel will see some sense unlike Saturday's over-zealous referee Ian Smith.

He red-carded a raging Radford, 31, after the experienced forward – one of the toughest but most respected in Super League – took offence to repeated elbows in the head from Ryan Bailey.

Only nine minutes had passed of an intoxicating and dramatic winner-takes-all encounter at the KC Stadium, Hull knowing they required victory to oust Leeds from fourth on the final weekend of the regular season.

The burly Leeds prop was grounded trying to struggle free from Radford's tackle around his legs but in doing so catching him in the head with his ball-carrying arm. The combustible Bailey has his own reputation and it is not angelic – he should not have been playing at all following a crude challenge on Chris Riley after the hooter had sounded at the Challenge Cup final – but, in this instance, he may genuinely not have realised where his arms were ending up.

Radford,who once helped raise more than 60,000 by getting in the boxing ring with ex-Bradford team-mate Stuart Fielden, got to his feet and reacted with a flurry of punches, leaving his battered opponent bloodied and fuming.

Smith dismissed Radford, who had committed his future to his hometown club on Thursday by signing a two-year deal, but only sent Bailey to the blood bin for four stitches when a yellow card for each would have cooled the situation.

Instead, Hull were left facing the defending champions with just 12 men but they responded in style building up an impressive 12-0 interval lead.

Much had been made of how Sean Long and Richard Horne might struggle for fluency, the Hull half-back pair joining for only the fifth time this season due to injuries, but it was Leeds who were out of sorts.

They were just as scratchy as they had been in their shattering loss against Warrington at Wembley a week earlier, struggling for cohesion and direction as the enthusiastic hosts lifted in the face of adversity.

A poor pass from Kevin Sinfield was dropped by Brett Delaney to gift Hull possession for their second try, a wonderfully crafted effort which saw Long's inside pass to Craig Fitzgibbon quickly fed back to Danny Washbrook.

Danny Tickle converted just as he had done earlier when Tom Briscoe produced a dazzling finish, the Black and Whites ignoring their numerical disadvantage, all too easily creating space out wide with some crisp handling before the England winger slammed on the brakes and cut a perfect diagonal back towards the line.

With Hull's players working overtime in the absence of Radford, they were always going to come under pressure in the second half if the visitors could gather themselves and Scott Donald did benefit from Rob Burrow's long pass to dive over on 44 minutes, Sinfield converting from touch. But another wayward Rhinos pass almost saw Briscoe immediately respond, the powerful winger just denied after surging close, and then he showed their spirit once more by scrambling back to force Lee Smith into fumbling over the line when the Leeds centre seemed certain to score.

Ill-disciplined Leeds captain Sinfield lost his cool when he was penalised for arguing about a grapple tackle and Fitzgibbon slotted the kick to put Hull 14-6 in front just after the hour mark.

The usually composed Sinfield then compounded the error by sailing the re-start dead, an obvious sign of how Leeds – with Keith Senior starting at second-row – have struggled in the wake of their Wembley horror.

But Danny McGuire gave them hope when he jinked through some tired defence on 64 minutes and the defining moment came just four minutes later.

Hull had created another overlap and all Tickle needed to do was deliver a short pass to the on-rushing Craig Hall as a huge gap opened but he went wide and Donald intercepted.

Moments later, some trademark McGuire footwork saw the England stand-off dance over again, Sinfield improving as they went in front for the first time, but the courageous home side still had another chance.

Typically, it was McGuire who saved them, coming up with the ball just as Kirk Yeaman seemed destined to dive over.

Hull FC: Hall; Briscoe, Berrigan, Yeaman, Lyne; Horne, Long; Radford, Houghton, O'Meley, Manu, Tickle, Fitzgibbon. Substitutes: Moa, Washbrook, Cusack, Turner.

Leeds: Webb; Hall, Delaney, Smith, Donald; McGuire, Burrow; Leuluai, Buderus, Bailey, Ablett, Senior, Sinfield. Substitutes: Diskin, Eastwood, Kirke, Lauitiiti.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).

This week's play-off dates

Friday September 10

Qualifying Semi-final:

St Helens v Warrington Wolves (8.00).

Winners through to Week 3, losers at home in Week 2.

Saturday September 11

Elimination Play-off: Huddersfield Giants v Crusaders RL (3.45).

Winners are away in Week 2, losers are eliminated.

Elimination Play-off: Hull FC v Hull KR (6.00).

Winners are away in Week 2, losers are eliminated

Sunday September 12

Qualifying semi-final: Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos (6.45).

Winners through to Week 3, losers at home in Week 2.