The Super League leaders will go into the play-offs with their first victory of the season over St Helens boosting their morale after this nervy affair at Knowsley Road yesterday. A fluctuating second half swung in the Bulls' direction through Leon Pryce's try, but Saints looked capable of snatching it back until the very last minute.
Saints dominated in the early stages, taking the lead with a beautifully worked try which proved to be rather out of character with the rest of a scrappy match. Darren Smith made the initial break and found Darren Albert with a crisp pass for Jason Hooper to arrive in support and score. Sean Long added the conversion, but missed a penalty that would have taken Saints further ahead before Keiron Cunningham made a mistake that let Bradford back into the game. From his knock-on, James Lowes exploited the chance to put in a cleverly angled kick for Shontayne Hape to score.
Bradford's discipline let them down a good way through the half, with one instance of defence allowing Long to put over a penalty and another inviting Saints to run the ball, which they did to great effect when Long's searching pass found Albert with plenty of space to score on the right wing.
Immediately before half-time, the Bulls finally put some fluent handling together with Karl Pratt and Stuart Reardon handling well to allow Tevita Vaikona to score in the corner, with Paul Deacon's goal cutting the margin to two points.
Martin Gleeson's mistake allowed Bradford to strike again straight after the break. His knock-on was pounced upon by Hape, who moved the ball swiftly to give Vainikolo a clear passage to the line.
Saints snatched the lead back when Long's kick wrong-footed the Bradford defence by bouncing off an upright for Smith to arrive and touch down.
The try that decided the match was out of the top drawer. Just before the hour, Deacon chipped ahead, Pratt gathered and swept the ball to Pryce whose long stride took him over in the corner.
Deacon could not convert that try, but his penalty gave Bradford a lead they could defend and a boost to their confidence that will be welcomed when they get into the games that really matter.
St Helens: Wellens; Albert, Gleeson, Newlove, Gardner; Hooper, Long; Mason, Cunningham, Ward, Talau, Stankevitch, Smith. Substitutes used: Stewart, Jonkers, Higham, Edmonson.
Bradford: Reardon; Vaikona, L Pryce, Hape, Vainikolo; Pratt, Deacon; Fielden, Lowes, Anderson, Naylor, Gilmour, Forshaw. Substitutes used: K Pryce, Myler, Parker, Moore.
Referee: R Smith (Castleford).Reuse content