Bulls fight back in surge to summit

Bradford Bulls 32 Hull FC 18
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Bradford took advantage of St Helens' crash at London to go clear at the top of Super League last night, although it took a vastly improved second-half performance to subdue Hull.

Hull got away to a dream start with the unlikely assistance of the Bradford captain, Robbie Paul. Making a rare appearance at full-back, he dropped a powerful kick from Jason Smith to give the visitors possession and, on the last tackle of the set, Smith hoisted the ball again.

This time it was Nathan McAvoy who could not hold on and, despite being on his back, Gareth Raynor managed to touch down. Hull could have capitalised further, especially when Smith caught his own chip only to have a potentially try-making pass intercepted. They got further reward for their enterprising play, though, when Steve Craven's pass sent Steve Prescott away and Smith's cross-kick picked out Matt Crowther for a second Hull try.

After that admirable work, Smith was lucky only to concede a penalty for a high tackle on Stuart Fielden. There was immediate retribution of another kind, however, as Lee Gilmour breezed through for the Bulls' first try. Paul Deacon's conversion brought Bradford within four points, but Crowther's penalty, added to his previous conversion, stretched the lead again.

Deacon was credited with a penalty early in the second half, despite a split of opinion between the touch judges and Bradford drew level when McAvoy squeezed over in the corner, Deacon's kick giving them the lead for the first time. The Bulls were on a roll now, with Mike Forshaw's run from the scrum base taking them up field and Paul Anderson's sheer power carrying him over the line.

"It sounds like sour grapes, but one of these days something will go for us," said the Hull coach, Shaun McRae, who was also unhappy with other decisions in the second half. "But in the end we weren't able to cope with the pressure."

Hull saw their chance again when Scott Naylor was sent to the sin-bin for holding down, but Smith just failed to get the ball over the line in the passage of play that followed. It was to be their last real chance, Paul sending Tevita Vaikona over with some lovely approach play.

Toa Kohe-Love's try from yet another Smith kick came a little too late with the Hull cheers drowned by the reception for the score from London.

Joe Vagana's late try made sure that Bradford were going two points clear at the top, leaving Hull to rue the opportunities missed to kill them off.

"There's a lot of improvement in us," warned the Bradford coach Brian Noble. "There was plenty of character tonight."

Bradford Bulls: Paul; Vaikona, Naylor, Gilmour, McAvoy; Costin, Deacon; Vagana, Lowes, McDermott, Radford, Peacock, Forshaw. Substitutes used: Vainikolo, R Parker, Fielden, Anderson.

Hull FC: Prescott; Raynor, Kohe-Love, Mackay, Crowther; Cooke, J Smith; Greenhill, King, Craven, Maher, Ryan, Chester. Substitutes used: Bird, P Parker, Logan, Fletcher.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

* London broke their Super League duck with a 40-6 win over St Helens at Griffin Park last night, recording their first-ever victory over Saints in the capital. The Broncos scored seven tries with Mat Toshack and Dennis Moran scoring two apiece.

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