Bradford suffer cruel finale

Rugby League Bradford Bulls 16 Penrith Panthers 20
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Bradford went agonisingly close to giving Britain its second World Club Championship win of the day last night before being beaten by a try run through an exhausted and ragged defence in the last minute.

It was a cruel finale to a match Bradford had seemed to control for 50 minutes, but which had been wrested away from them by the sheer resilience of the team from Sydney's far west.

The Bulls began with a snort and a roar, gaining an early lead through Steve McNamara's penalty and capitalising further on their dominance when the same player opened up the Penrith defence on the left with a superb pass, leaving Paul Loughlin to usher Jon Scales over in the corner.

Penrith had not had a serious attack but, when they did, they scored, carving through Bradford with deceptive ease via Steve Carter and Craig Gower for Sid Domic to slip an inside pass to Peter Jorgensen. Ryan Girdler landed the equalising conversion.

Bradford thought they had retaken the lead when when Graeme Bradley escaped them to kick behind the try-line, but the video replay proved that Matt Calland had not forced the ball down.

The screen came up with an altogether more popular verdict two minutes later. James Lowes served the ball up for Danny Peacock, whose power and determination got him over the line for a try, again improved by McNamara.

On balance, the Bulls should have been more than six points ahead as half-time approached. They addressed that in injury time, again kicking early in the tackle counts, Glen Tomlinson's boot sending Stuart Spruce over by the flag.

Bradford's domination continued into the second half and Penrith's victory gallop came out of the blue. It began when Craig Gower picked up Spruce's grubber in his own 25 and sent Girdler the length of the field for a try he converted himself. From that point the Panthers looked ominously strong.

Darren Brown knocked on for Penrith when it seemed that pressure was about to pay off, but he soon made amends taking a return pass from Matt Adamson to tie the scores.

Bradford had one fleeting chance in the game when McNamara missed narrowly with a drop goal attempt five minutes from time. Penrith also seemed to have failed at the other end when Jeff Wittenberg charged down Brad Drew's effort, but the ball bounced back to Domic who went over for the vital points almost on the hooter.

The Bulls coach, Matthew Elliott, criticised the refereeing of David Campbell after a rugged match at Odsal. "A lot of my players have thick lips and sore necks from the tackling out there," he said.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce; Calland, Loughlin, Peacock, Scales; Paul, Tomlinson; Reihana, Lowes, McDermott, Forshaw, S McNamara, Bradley. Substitutes used: Wittenberg, Graham, Knox, Anderson

Penrith Panthers: Jorgensen; Williams, Domic, Girdler, Beckett; Carter, Gower; P Adamson, Farrar, C McNamara, M Adamson, Gall, Brown. Substitutes used: Drew, Boyd, Thompson, Alexander.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).