St Hilaire the hero in Bulls' power show

Surprise debut turns into a dream for unheralded wing
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The Independent Online

The Bradford coach, Brian Noble, hailed Marcus St Hilaire after he made a try-scoring debut to help lift the Bulls to the top of the Super League.

The former Leeds and Huddersfield winger, plucked from the obscurity of National League with Halifax on the eve of the season, was thrown in at the deep end when full-back Mick Withers pulled out of Friday night's match against Hull with a shoulder injury.

But the 29-year-old St Hilaire popped up for the all-important try 10 minutes from the end to secure a precious 18-12 victory that extended the champions' unbeaten run to 18 matches and enabled them to leapfrog St Helens, who go to Huddersfield today.

"Marcus came and did as well as anybody possibly could," said Noble. "I am really pleased for him because he has had no game-time. He has not played for three weeks and he is nowhere near fit enough.

"He knows that. He pulled an injury in Lanzarote and he has come from a part-time environment. The poor bloke is probably in shock over the amount of work he had to do."

Inspired by experienced half-backs Paul Cooke and Richard Horne, a depleted Hull made Bradford fight all the way and would have secured a draw had full-back Shaun Briscoe been able to hang on to Peter Lupton's pass with the line beckoning.

Their coach, John Kear, singled out for special praise debutant 20-year-old prop Scott Wheeldon, try-scorer Kirk Dixon and second-rower Danny Hill as Hull helped erase the memory of last October's record 71-0 defeat at Odsal. Lesley Vainikolo grabbed four tries that night, to add to the six he scored against them in a league match a month earlier, and he added two more last night to take his remarkable tally to 114 in 108 appearances for Bradford.

The early-season pressure on Wigan's coach, Ian Millward, increased after the Warriors went down 24-12 at home to Warrington in Friday's other match. Skipper Lee Briers was the Wolves hero as they recorded a first away victory over Wigan in the Super League era. Wigan have now lost four of their first five matches.

They went in front when Bryan Fletcher scored on his debut, shortly after coming from the bench, but tries from Richie Barnett and Chris Bridge helped put the visitors 12-6 ahead at half-time. And Briers took over in the second half with four drop goals, a penalty and a conversion of Henry Fa'afili's try to clinch a second win of the season.

"To grade our first five games, we have been poor, average, good, very good and excellent - because you have got to be excellent to beat Wigan at the JJB," said the delighted Warrington coach, Paul Cullen.

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