Johnson maintains Bulls' play-off momentum

St Helens 18 Bradford 32
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The Independent Online

The Bulls struggled through much of the regular season which wrapped up last night, but they beat the league leaders with a surge that recalled the way they came back from the dead against Huddersfield last week.

Then they overturned the 16-point deficit in the final quarter; last night at Knowsley Road they scored five tries in the last 13 minutes to win what had been a tight, scrappy match at the gallop. Their former Great Britain winger, Paul Johnson was the key man in their revival.

The Bulls were trailing by 10 points when Leon Pryce scooped up a loose ball and Johnson squeezed in at the corner. Lesley Vainikolo then forced his way over from close range for his second try.

The decisive moment came when Johnson slipped past Willie Talau ­ who had been Saints' most dangerous player all night ­ for his second.

"People raised a few eyebrows when we picked Johnson on the wing, but he has played there for Great Britain and he's got some speed," said Bradford's coach Brian Noble.

Pryce, destined for Saints next season, was the next to demonstrate that he also possesses reserves of pace by scoring the try of the match from 50m out, bewitching Paul Wellens with a side-step executed at full speed.

By the time Johnson provided Ben Harris with the scoring pass for the final try, the whole complexion of the match had been transformed beyond recognition.

"We dominated a very good team in the first half but were only a couple of points ahead," said Noble "But our character was superb and, in the end, we looked like scoring on every play."

Bradford will now almost certainly meet the London Broncos next Friday with another home game to follow if they win that and there were plenty of hopeful signs for them last night. Adrian Morley looked much more like his old self and Ian Henderson continues to impress at hooker.

Saints' coach, Daniel Anderson, believes that his side were effected by last week's injury toll in the controversial match with Wigan which left them without Sean Long, Darren Albert and Lee Gilmour.

While clearly lacking their usual sense of direction in midfield, they clung on to score through Talau after Vainikolo had given Bradford the early advantage.

Wellens' try put them ahead for the first time 10 minutes after the break and, when Talau scored his second, they looked capable of celebrating their League Leaders' Trophy by beating the side with whom they share so much Super League history. But they had no answer to the Bull's rampaging finish and the rest of the play-off candidates have been duly warned.

St Helens: Wellens; Hardman, Lyon, Talau, Gardner; Hooper, Roby; Fozzard, Higham, P Anderson, Wilkin, Graham, Bennett. Substitutes used: Cunningham, Mason, Fa'asavalu, V Anderson.

Bradford: Pryce; Johnson, B Harris, Hape, Vainikolo; I Harris, Beacon; Morley, Henderson, Fielden, Peacock, Meyers, Radford. Substitutes used: Paul, Vagana, Lynch, Langley.

Referee: A Klein (London).