Bradford retained their position at the top of the the Tetley's Super League, but the big noises were coming out of the St Helens dressing room after they cruised into second spot at the expense of Leeds Rhinos on Friday night.
Paul Sculthorpe, in a makeshift stand-off position for Saints, was the destroyer-in-chief, dotting down a try and kicking six goals in the 41-14 victory at the Rhinos, to take his personal points total to 98 from his seven matches.
St Helens once more demonstrated their ability to rise to the big occasion, defending heroically to keep the most prolific attack in Super League in check while making the most of the chances that came their way.
The game was all over by half-time after Peter Shiels, Anthony Stewart, Chris Joynt and Sculthorpe all found their way across the line and even the loss of scrum-half Tommy Martyn and forward Tim Jonkers to injury failed to disrupt their rhythm. Leeds had two first-half tries disallowed, and, although they got back to 25-10, Saints added further tries through Stewart and Mick Higham (2).
The result means the Saints are in clear second spot and, with Paul Newlove, Keiron Cunningham and Long all due back by the end of July, they have emerged as the biggest threat to Bradford.
"I'm really excited," said coach Ian Millward. "I know we're going in the right direction. Newlove will be back in a couple of weeks and then the other two will follow. I couldn't be happier."
The Bulls had the goalkicking of Paul Deacon to thank for the 22-12 victory over London Broncos at Valley Parade, which saw them consolidate top spot.
With both sides scoring two tries, the five penalties kicked by Deacon proved invaluable as Bradford struggled in the absence of James Lowes and top try scorer Tevita Vaikona.
However, the Broncos coach, Tony Rea, was fiercely critical of the penalty count against his team. "We got taken out of the game," he insisted. "The 14-3 count against us was a joke. I am very frustrated by what happened but, in six years, we have never won a penalty count away from home."
The Broncos were a man short for an effective 20 minutes in the second half after losing two players to the sin bin. Centre Tony Martin and second-rower Steele Retchless were both dismissed for holding down at the play-the-ball.
Deacon and Martin both missed penalty chances before Deacon put the Bulls 2-0 ahead after 17 minutes.
Deacon landed a second penalty goal after 23 minutes, but a keen defence forced the Bulls into several handling errors in key positions. It continued to be an uncompromising struggle after the break but Deacon's third goal from halfway edged the Bulls ahead and they finally breached the Broncos defence on 50 minutes through Robbie Paul.
Deacon's conversion opened a 12-0 advantage before Michael Withers went over for their second try. Deacon converted and soon added another penalty but the Broncos battled on with consolation converted tries from Nigel Roy and Michael Gillett.Reuse content