Harlequins 28 Bradford 26: Deacon's misses hurt Bulls

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The Independent Online

Harlequins hung on to a two-point lead for the last 26 minutes of this magnificent match to clinch a victory that should keep them in Super League.

Bradford dominated possession but Quins' dogged display was rewarded with two points and a standing ovation.

On a bewildering afternoon - officially Harlequins' "Beach Party" but overwhelmingly autumnal - the home side began their fifth from last game of the season not knowing whether they were fighting for a play-off place or against relegation. Bradford still harbour ambitions of second-place despite this loss.

The Bulls took the lead after seven minutes when Paul Deacon's kick was fumbled under pressure by Paul Sykes and Terry Newton collected the ball to send Lesley Vainikolo away on the right. Deacon, playing in his 250th game for the Odsal club, hit the upright with the conversion.

Marcus Bai then touched down Deacon's grubber kick amidst a mighty scramble on the left. Chad Randall pulled one back for Quins, ducking over after a flurry of frantic tackling, but seconds later Shontayne Hape tiptoed through soft Quins' defence to touch down, Deacon converting at his third attempt.

Then came five minutes that changed the game. Luke Dorn, central to everything for Quins but destined for Salford next season, intercepted Deacon's pass and beat Vainikolo in an 80-metre dash for the line. Henry Paul's kick against one of his former clubs kept the scoreline far closer than the pattern of play suggested.

Incredibly, Quins were soon ahead when Vainikolo missed Paul's kick through and Matt Gafa sent Lee Hopkins tumbling over the line. Two more minutes brought another six points, Randall burying through some lacklustre Bulls defenders and Paul converting.

Vainikolo's nightmare continued after the break as he dropped the kick-off, and seconds later Tyrone Smith was putting Quins 12 points clear.

Deacon bounced over from the next set and converted to keep Bradford within reach and, after Paul's penalty made it 28-20, Stanley Gene's grubber kick may or may not have been touched down by Brett Ferres. The referee, Ben Thaler, gave the try after consulting his assistants to reduce Quins' lead to two points. Miraculously, that was enough to win the match.

Harlequins: Sykes; Stewart, Gafa, Smith, Bradley-Qualilawa; Paul, Dorn; Mills, Randall, Hechenberg, Hopkins, Noone, Purdham. Substitutes used: Budworth, Williams, Haumono, Tookey.

Bradford: St Hilaire; Vainikolo, Hape, B Harris, Bai; I Harris, Deacon; Vagana, Newton, Lynch, McKenna, Ferres, Langley. Substitutes used: Gene, Meyers, Withers, Henderson.

Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield).

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