Cooke guides Hull towards top two spot

Hull 25 - Bradford 14
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The Independent Online

A finish in Super League's top two now lies firmly in Hull's own hands after a convincing display to beat last season's champions Bradford yesterday.

It was Hull's first double over the Bulls in the Super League era. "To do the double over a team like them is a tremendous effort,'' said Shaun McRae, the Hull coach. "They could have been level with us after today, but now we're four points clear.'' For that he can thank a determined team performance in which players like Paul Cooke and Paul King shone but everyone did a bit extra to make up for the loss of Richard Swain and Paul McNicholas with shoulder injuries.

Hull dominated the first quarter, but Bradford could feel aggrieved about the first try of the game after five minutes. Cooke and Kirk Yeaman showed enterprise and agility in getting out blind passes, but the second, to the scorer, Richie Barnett jun, looked distinctly forward. To add insult to injury, Cooke added the goal from the touchline.

Hull should have had a second try from the same source, but Yeaman chose to throw the dummy and go for the line himself, having the ball knocked out of his hands by Stuart Reardon before he could get there.

The home side's defence had been fierce, but with Iestyn Harris starting to exert a strong influence Bradford gradually came into the game. Paul Deacon got them on the scoreboard after Richard Horne was penalised for holding down Jamie Langley, and the scrum-half was then stopped on the line when he threatened the Bulls' first try.

It was Harris's incisive break, kept going by Leon Pryce, that set the scene when they finally scored seven minutes before half-time, Robbie Paul throwing the long pass that enabled Shontayne Hape to get over and Deacon to kick the goal that put Bradford ahead.

That lead did not last long into the second half, with Cooke fending off and running away from Jamie Peacock to draw the full-back and send Briscoe over. Another chance went begging when Shayne McMenemy lost the ball diving over the line, but Hull took a 10-point lead when Graham Horne seized on a loose pass from Paul and went half the length of the field to score.

Bradford came back with a messy try when Leon Pryce had the ball stripped from his grasp and Paul followed up to touch down. But the return of King helped to lift Hull in the final stages. It was his superb pass that sent Ewan Dowes through for the try that made the points safe and his tackle that denied Stuart Fielden soon after.

Just to make sure, Richard Whiting, whose early tackle on Lesley Vainikolo set the scene for one of Super League's most dangerous players to have a thoroughly off-key afternoon, kicked a late drop goal.

Hull: S Briscoe; C Best, K Yeaman, R Whiting, R Barnett Jnr; P Cooke, R Horne; E Dowes, R Swain, P King, S McMenemy, P McNicholas, J Smith. Substitutes used: G Horne, P Lupton, L Higgins, N Scruton.

Bradford: S Reardon; K Pryce, L Pryce, S Hape, L Vainikolo; I Harris, P Deacon; J Anderson, R Paul, S Fielden, L Swann, J Peacock, L Radford. Substitutes used: C Bridge, J Langley, J Vagana, R Parker.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).