Bulls quick to put down marker for the season

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The Independent Online

The Bradford Bulls not only became world champions on Friday, they also showed how difficult it is going to be for any British side to dislodge them this season. Bradford put in a remarkable display to beat the Newcastle Knights 41-26 in the World Club Challenge at Huddersfield.

All right, the Knights were without a couple of key players, the weather was decidedly "English" and the referee, Stuart Cummings, even got a helpful little touch to the ball for one Bradford try.

But it was still a compelling performance. "They were just too good for us on the night," said the Newcastle coach, Michael Hagan, who believes that the Bulls would be well capable of competing in Australia's National Rugby League week in, week out.

It is what they might do in Super League that concerns British opponents who were watching on Friday, because Bradford went as far as it was possible to go in 80 minutes towards answering the biggest question hanging over them in 2002. That of course, is how they will cope without Henry Paul. The way his brother, Robbie, played at stand-off in the first half at the McAlpine Stadium was mouth-watering.

The younger Paul was hardly able to play in his favourite position whilst his brother was at the club, but he was magnificent for 40 minutes on Friday, scoring two tries, setting up two more and never giving Australia's bestany peace.

When he went off with a minor neck injury before half-time, there was a fear that the Bulls would lose their impetus. The way that Leon Pryce played in the second half, however, showed that Bradford have another interesting option in the position.

Pryce has been used almost exclusively as a winger by Bradford so far, but he hankers to be closer to the action and he showed on Friday that he can handle that switch.

This is likely to be a season of transition for him. "His days on the wing aren't necessarily at an end," said his coach, Brian Noble. "But he knows where he's going and we know where he's going." Both coaches were agreed that there is now enough depth in the British game to justify expanding the World Club Challenge to take in the top four in both countries.

The other question is whether there is enough quality in Britain to stop Bradford this season. Leeds, on Saturday, are the first to try; they now know how hard it will be.

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