Hull yesterday gave up the Challenge Cup that they won so memorably last August, going out at the first hurdle to a Bradford side expertly directed by Iestyn Harris. But they did not do so without a fight.
Bradford, one of Hull's victims last year, pulled away in the second half to make sure of their place in the fifth-round draw, but there was credit for a wholehearted display from the holders, who have been so off-colour in the League.
"We are very disappointed," the Hull coach, John Kear, said, "but I can't fault the players. I thought they gave it a real good shot."
Running out of the worst of the Odsal mud and into a stiff wind in the first half, Hull looked like a team determined to hang on to the trophy, showing a tenacity that has been sadly lacking at times from Super League performances. Although the Bulls had much of the ball, they were limited to one try, and even that was a fortunate one.
Hull were threatening when Shaun Briscoe had a pass that would have released a two-man overlap outside him knocked down by Marcus Bai. Ben Harris took the ball upfield and, from that position, Jamie Langley bounced out of Kirk Yeaman's tackle, got his pass to Karl Pryce and was there to take the return and score. Paul Deacon's two penalties made it an eight-point lead, but the holders came back strongly, with Richard Horne denied by a tackle on the line.
Hull maintained the pressure and, after 21 minutes, Horne ghosted through again, this time grounding the ball. Danny Brough converted and though Hull had more defending to do, notably when Kirk Dixon lost the ball near his line, a two-point half-time deficit was almost a moral victory.
It was after the interval that the game, and the Cup, got away from them. Yeaman was at fault again for the second Bradford try, charging out of the line at Deacon and leaving a gap. The momentum grew and Bai scored from Iestyn Harris's kick.
Harris's run put Hull on the back foot for the next, Deacon this time kicking with precision for Lesley Vainikolo to palm the ball down for Shontayne Hape. Deacon added a strategic drop goal and it looked likely to be invaluable when Horne grabbed his second try of the match, weaving through again with nine minutes to play. There was to be no repeat of last season's heroics, however, with Stanley Gene taking Harris's pass to round off Bradford's victory.
"When everyone was under pressure we managed to find some sharp, incisive finishing and that was the difference between the two teams," the Bulls coach, Brian Noble, said.
Bradford: Withers; Bai, B Harris, Pryce, Vainikolo; I Harris, Deacon; Fielden, Henderson, Lynch, Hape, McKenna, Langley. Substitutes used: Vagana, Gene, Watene, Cook.
Hull: Briscoe; Raynor, Yeaman, Domic, Dixon; Whiting, Horne; Dowes, Brough, King, Radford, Hill, Cooke. Substitutes used: Chester, Thackray, Carvell, Tony.
Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).
Sunday Preview: Alas Wigan, no help from Smith
Tony Smith has no intention of giving his old club a helping hand out of their predicament. The Wakefield coach and ex-Wigan scrum-half has a double appointment with his old team - today in the Challenge Cup and next Friday in Super League, where they occupy the bottom two positions. "On our day, we can beat anyone," said Smith. "But our performances have been a mirror image of Wigan's. We've often been ahead at half-time, but haven't played for the full 80 minutes. Like us, they'll be looking at this as a way of kickstarting their season."
Wigan will have to do that without David Solomona, the Wakefield second-rower in whom they have reputedly been showing interest. Super League's fallen giants have money available to buy players, but Smith says that Solomona will not be among them. "A lot of clubs would want him, but he is a very important player for us and he is not for sale," Smith said. Solomona is out today with a rib injury but could be back for Friday's rematch.
The closest thing to an upset could be at Widnes, where Castleford, the side who replaced them in Super League, look vulnerable. Widnes have not struck form in the humbler surroundings of the Northern Rail Cup, but are capable of proving a stumbling block in the Cup they once dominated.Reuse content