Cooke keeps Hull ticking

Hull 26 - Bradford Bulls 24
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The Independent Online

Hull progressed into the last eight of the Challenge Cup - the trophy on which they have set their hearts - playing much of the match with the sort of intensity that would have not have been out of place in a final, but they still had to withstand a stirring late fightback from Bradford.

Hull progressed into the last eight of the Challenge Cup - the trophy on which they have set their hearts - playing much of the match with the sort of intensity that would have not have been out of place in a final, but they still had to withstand a stirring late fightback from Bradford.

When they led by 20 points with 15 minutes to play, Hull looked destined for a relatively comfortable passage into the quarter-finals.

Bradford have had their faults this season, but their power and resilience makes them a dangerous second-half team and they came within a minute or two of depriving Hull of the spoils.

Lesley Vainikolo led the charge, going over from close range after Kirk Yeaman had conceded possession by leaving the ball behind. Four minutes later, Iestyn Harris threw a massive long ball to Lee Radford, who held it up for Vainikolo to collect and score again to make the unthinkable just about possible.

Hull managed to slow the rate at which the game was suddenly running away from them, but with 90 seconds to play Bradford kept the ball alive and Vainikolo got it to Karl Pryce who squeezed in at the corner.

Paul Deacon's successful kick from the touchline left time for one last attack, but Pryce's elder brother Leon threw the ball into touch.

"We just ran out of time. If we had another five minutes I am sure we would have beaten them,'' said their coach Brian Noble. "It was a manful effort to get so close, but we've got to be disappointed with the way we played in the first half."

That half had seen a dominant display from Hull, whose coach, John Kear, had treated this game as a priority over the last few weeks.

"This competition is very special to me and very special to the whole club,'' said Kear, who famously won it with Sheffield in 1998.

Hull certainly began as though it carried a special importance, ripping into Bradford and going ahead through Nathan Blacklock after 10 minutes. Some amazing handling by Shane McMenemy got the ball to Richard Whiting for Hull's second five minutes later and when Paul Cooke went through some weak tackling for a third, Hull's supporters could not believe how easy it was.

Cooke produced a strong individual effort after being left out of Noble's 40-man Great Britain squad earlier in the week. "I'm glad he didn't pick him because it might have been a little motivation for him today,'' Kear said.

Hull went further ahead immediately before the interval when Yeaman turned the ball back inside for Chris Chester. Even though the Bradford captain, Jamie Peacock, scored from Deacon's kick at the start of the second half, Hull appeared to be in little trouble when Motu Tony claimed a try from Cooke's chip kick just after the hour.

Kear had warned his troops to expect a resurgence from Bradford and he was proved right in the final quarter, but it would have been a travesty if they had not been in today's draw.

Hull: Briscoe; Blacklock, Whiting, Yeaman, Raynor; Cooke, R Horne; Dowes, Tony, Thackray, Chester, Kearney, McMenemy. Substitutes used: King, Carvell, Brough, G Horne.

Bradford: L Pryce; Pratt, Reardon, Langley, Vainikolo; Harris, Paul; Fielden, Deacon, Peacock, Parker, Meyers, Radford. Substitutes used: K Pryce, Vagana, Lynch, Ferres.

Referee: A Klein (London).

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