Bulls defence is making life difficult for them

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The Independent Online

If anyone had suggested at the start of the season that todaywould see Bradford facing a fourth Super League defeat in a row and Huddersfield striving for a fourth successive victory, they would have been told that they were slightly overstating the unpredictability of this year's competition.

If anyone had suggested at the start of the season that todaywould see Bradford facing a fourth Super League defeat in a row and Huddersfield striving for a fourth successive victory, they would have been told that they were slightly overstating the unpredictability of this year's competition.

That, however, is the situation in which the near-neighbours find themselves at Odsal this afternoon. The Giants won both their matches over Easter, against Wakefield and Salford, and followed that up with an impressive win over Wigan.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have been in decline -beaten by Leeds and St Helens and then failing to show up for the first half at Warrington last Sunday.

Their coach, Brian Noble, is refusing to panic, pointing out that there is still two-thirds of the season to play, but cracks have been appearing.

Their fearsome four-prop rotation is now a thing of the past, with Stuart Fielden often expected to play most of the game, because there is no comparable back-up on the bench. Injuries to Shontayne Hape and Paul Johnson have left the Bulls looking stretched in the centres, where the recent combination has been Jamie Langley, a specialist back-rower, and Karl Pryce, an 18-year-old with potential but little top-flight experience.

That has been a contributory factor in Bradford frequently being caught out in defence when they encounter top-class attacking footwork, as from Warrington's Martin Gleeson last week.

"I wasn't too worried over Easter," said Noble. "But my main concern now is our defence. We have always been among the best defensive sides in the competition, but not this season." Noble will have Karl Pratt back today and will reshuffle his back-line in search of more solidity, but the Bulls meet a confident side.

Huddersfield have established themselves as difficult to play against, but they are now starting to play some expansive rugby as well. The arrival of Brad Drew has added a new dimension at dummy-half, and a fresh surge of form from seniors such as Stanley Gene and Paul Reilly has widened their attacking options. Bradford's defence could be in for another testing afternoon.

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