Rugby League: Misery repeats itself for Bradford

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The Independent Online
Auckland Warriors 62 Bradford Bulls 14

A miserable moment in Bradford's memorable season was within one muffed conversion of repeating itself as they crashed out of the Visa World Club Championship.

The Bulls promised to improve on their last appearance at the Ericsson Stadium, when they were hammered 64-14 in the qualifying stage of the competition. They did - but only just, a miss-hit by the stand-in kicker, Sean Hoppe, going under the crossbar from dead in front when a successful shot would have produced the outrageous co-incidence of an identical scoreline in yesterday's quarter-final.

It hardly mattered. Bradford's effort - frail in defence and, apart from a brief flurry before half-time, unimaginative and error-ridden in attack - was similar enough to their last visit to Auckland to make no difference.

The Bulls suffered a blow before the game when the player of the season, James Lowes, was forced to withdraw with a groin strain. Without his spark at acting half-back, Bradford lacked the most damaging weapon in their armoury, but they managed to hold the Warriors to a penalty apiece for a scrappy opening 18 minutes.

They then fell apart, or were ripped apart by Steve Kearney. The New Zealand Test second-row did considerable damage to Australia in the Kiwis' victory last week; he encountered less opposition from the Bulls as he broke through tackles at will to set up tries for Stacey Jones, Gene Ngamu and Hoppe in the space of 10 minutes.

Bradford briefly looked as though they might make a contest of it when Abi Ekoku pounced on a mistake by Denis Betts and Graeme Bradley capitalised on strong forward play for two tries to leave them only six points adrift at the break.

But the British champions re-started horribly, a persistent lack of commitment in the tackle allowing Auckland to sweep in for eight second-half tries.

Auckland Warriors: Ridge; Oudenryn, A Swann, Endacott, Hoppe; Ngamu, Jones; Malam, Eru, Vagana, Betts, Kearney, L Swann. Substitutes used: Horo, Ellis, Tuimavave, Guttenbeil.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce; Scales, Peacock, Ekoku, Crouthers; Bradley, Paul; McDermott, Graham, Anderson, Forshaw, Nickle, McNamara. Substitutes used: Donougher, Wittenberg, Reihana, Medley.

Referee: W Harrigan (Australia).