Fletcher's controversial dismissal leaves Hull stunned

Hull 20 Bradford 26
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A game played in an electric atmosphere in front of a near-20,000 crowd at the KC Stadium yesterday turned on one of the most controversial incidents of the season so far. The teams running second and third in Super League were locked together early in the second half when Hull's second-rower Richard Fletcher went through an inviting gap for the try that could have swung the game their way.

Not only was the try disallowed, however, but Fletcher was sent off for the second time this season - he suffered a similar fate in the opening game against London - for kicking Bradford's Karl Pratt, and Hull never really looked like potential winners again.

"It was 10-all and they were going over the line to score, so it was a pivotal moment, but the rules say you can't kick people,'' said Brian Noble, the Bulls coach.

Hull's Shaun McRae saw it in a radically different light. "I've just looked at the incident and I'm absolutely astounded,'' the coach said. "The contact was absolutely negligible. I could bring up hundred of incidents this season where contact has been made and no action has been taken. But he has been sent from the field, so we will have a case to answer.''

The referee, Steve Ganson, was sending off a Super League player for the sixth time this season - he is the the only referee to send off anyone in Super League this season - but, McRae pointed out, this was a decision made on a report from a touch judge. It was certainly one that had a crucial bearing on the outcome.

Within a couple of minutes, Shontayne Hape had scrambled his way to the other end to put Bradford ahead and Paul Deacon's conversion and two penalties, one of them scraping over via the bar, gave them a 10-point lead.

When Lesley Vainikolo took Deacon's pass to power over in the corner, the Bulls seemed home and dry. Both sides had a player in the sin bin by then - Hull's Dean Treister and Lee Radford of Bradford - after a midfield punch up, but the home team's 11 men rallied with a try from Richard Horne.

It was already injury time when Colin Best cut the margin further and too late to affect the result. "I thought we were super today, '' Noble said. "The scoreline flattered Hull in the end"

Hull, inspired by their biggest crowd so far at their new ground, had enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, with Steve Prescott landing two penalties and Jamie Peacock becoming the first man in the sin bin for obstructing Treiser.

Those kicks were balanced by two from Deacon, the second after Pratt had scored the only try of the half, taking advantage of Prescott's hesitation to reach James Lowes' kick.

Richie Barnett's converted try gave Hull the advantage at the start of the second half before Deacon's third goal levelled the scores and set the scene for the controversy to come.

Hull: Prescott; Best, Kohe-Love, Yeaman, Barnett, Cooke, R Horne, Greenhill, Treister, King, Ryan, Maher, Chester. Substitutes used: Carvell, Dowes, G Horne, Fletcher.

Bradford: Paul, Vaikona, Pryce, Hape, Vainikolo, Pratt, Deacon,, Vagana, Lowes, Parker, Gartner, Peacock, Forshaw. Substitutes used: Reardon, Gilmour, Radford, Moore.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).

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