Paul puts Bradford on top of the world

Bradford Bulls 41 Newcastle Knights 26
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The Independent Online

The Newcastle Knights, who scarcely made a mistake in winning their grand final in Australia, were harried into an endless series of errors as Bradford maintained the British grip on the World Club Challenge.

The Bulls survived the loss of their captain, Robbie Paul after an inspirational first half and with their pack dominant and James Lowes controlling play superbly, they never looked like letting Newcastle back into the game as they went on to emulate St Helens' victory over Brisbane last year.

At full strength, apart of course from the departed Henry Paul, with a match behind them and some typically British weather breaking above their heads, the Bulls seemed to have everything in their favour at The McAlpine stadium last night.

Conditions seemed even more favourable when Bradford took the lead with the game's first play. Matt Parsons set the tone by conceding possession by knocking on Robbie O'Davis' pass and, from the scrum, the Bulls worked the position from which Paul Deacon put in a low kick which Robbie Paul gathered and took over the line for a try inside the first minute.

Deacon added the goal but Bradford soon returned the compliment, Scott Naylor losing possession from the kick-off. Straight from the scrum, Newcastle moved the ball wide, Matthew Gidley pulled in the defence and Josh Smith scored.

Andrew Johns could not land the conversion and Bradford went further ahead with a Deacon penalty. Johns gave Bradford a further boost by kicking dead from the restart, but showed a touch of his class to bring the Knights level, selling a dummy to sneak through the Bulls' defensive line.

It was still a match in which neither side could hold on to the ball. Bill Peden was the next offender, the Newcastle loose forward coughing up possession in the tackle. Again, the turnover of possession paid a quick dividend when Paul passed to Daniel Gartner, charging through for the try, again improved by Deacon.

Newcastle had a try disallowed for Matthew Gidley's forward pass to Smith, but they were awarded one that looked equally dubious when Gidley slid over after what looked like obstruction in the build-up.

Johns' first goal put the Knights on level terms but they were not to stay that way for long. Another mistake, this time from Clinton O'Brien, surrendered possession and Paul slithered through the defence to send in Michael Withers. Three minutes later, Lowes' quick penalty and Paul Anderson's drive over the line kept Newcastle under pressure for Paul to go slicing through again.

Deacon's continued success with his goal-kicking gave Bradford a 12-point lead at half-time, even though the sight of Paul going off injured was a worrying one.

Deacon's penalty eased them further ahead, but it was Lowes who struck the killer blow. His thunderous tackle knocked the ball out of the grasp of Clint Newton and he then worked the blind side to send Lesley Vainikola over.

When Withers pounced on Lowes' kick for his second, Newcastle were left with too much to do, although Johns got over for his own second try from Josh Perry's pass. There was to be no amazing comeback, a dropped goal and penalty from Deacon, now thriving at scrum-half alongside Paul's replacement, Leon Pryce, kept them in control on another memorable night for British club rugby league.

Johns' kick came back off the post for Danny Buderus to have the last word for the night, but they had been put to the sword.

Bradford: Withers; Vaikona, Naylor, Gilmour, Vainikolo; Paul, Deacon; Vagana, Lowes, McDermott, Gartner, Peacock, Forshaw. Substitutes used: Anderson, Pryce, Fielden, Costin.

Newcastle: O'Davis; Smith, M Gidley, Hughes, K Gidley; Rudder, Johns; Parsons, Buderus, Perry, Abraham, Simpson, Peden. Substitutes used: O'Brien, Newton, Morris, Jobson.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).