Bradford's long tenure at the summit of the Tetley's Super League may be coming to end. The season's pace-setters have been hauled in, if not overtaken, 16 matches into the season and it's St Helens who are now favourites after the two met in an exciting match at Knowsley Road on Friday.
The Saints, who were 32 points inferior to the Bulls the last time they met, ran in six tries to four to emerge 34-26 winners in a display of fine attacking play. It would not be overstating the fact to say that the difference in this meeting was Kieron Cunningham, who proved his fitness ahead of next month's Test in Australia with an outstanding display.
Cunningham had a hand in much of Saints' blistering attacking play and was equally determined in defence.
Ian Millward, the Saints coach, feels his side are now getting back to their best. "I've been very fortunate since the Challenge Cup final, which was very much a reality check. We have learnt from that day. We were very good and I enjoyed it."
The Saints made a shaky start and fell behind to the first of Brandon Costin's two tries after six minutes but they soon asserted their authority. They ran in three tries in a 10-minute spell that left the Bulls playing catch-up for the rest of the game, although they could never shake off the never-say-die champions.
In the end Paul Wellens' last-gasp touchdown, his second, two tries and five goals from Paul Sculthorpe and further touchdowns for Darren Britt and Darren Albert proved just enough.
The Bradford coach, Brian Noble, said: "We didn't quite get the job done. We let in some soft tries by our standards. Conceding 34 points is too much but we played some good stuff. We just contributed to our own downfall."
The play-off rivals Leeds and Hull both left it late before securing the wins that keep them level in joint third position. Karl Pratt raced 80 metres to score for the Rhinos as they finally killed off Wakefield 36-22 at Belle Vue.
The Wildcats are fighting for their Super League lives and they gave themselves a real chance of victory as they ran in five tries, two from Gareth Ellis, and led for most of the game.
But the Rhinos never knew when they were beaten and after Rob Burrow, Ben Walker, Mark Calderwood, Willie Poching and Ryan Sheridan tries had kept them in contention, Pratt settled matters.
The centre Toa Kohe-Love played the Karl Pratt role at The Jungle as the Kiwi ran in a last-minute 90-metre interception try to earn Hull a slender 16-12 win over Castleford.
The Airlie Birds were under the cosh for most of the second half as Cas, after tries from Danny Orr and Mitch Healey, pushed hard for victory. But Hull made sure of their first victory at the ground since 1991 when Kohe-Love intercepted a pass from Lee Harland.
Shaun McRae, the Hull coach, was understandably delighted after his side emerged with the win. "The effort was fantastic and I thought we deserved to win. It could well be the best defensive display since I have been at the club.
"There were times when Castleford troubled us. They had a lot of ball and a lot of field position. On another day they could have scored five or six tries. I thought it was a terrific performance."Reuse content