Thomas the convert shines in Crusaders' Noble cause

Bradford Bulls 0 Crusaders 19
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The Independent Online

Michael Witt scored 15 points in a turn-up which started Super League's Magic Weekend in Edinburgh in memorable style. But Bradford were not only outwitted – they were also caught cold by outstanding displays from two players.

The diminutive, piratically moustached Jarrod Sammut only arrived in the country on Friday morning, but he made an instant impression for the Crusaders with his speed and enterprise, culminating in a dazzling try that killed off the Bulls. Gareth Thomas, meanwhile, might not know every blade of grass at Murrayfield, but thanks to his rugby union exploits here he was on nodding terms with more of them than anyone else. He even changed in the same place he had used with the Cardiff Blues a few weeks ago. He called that "a weird sensation", but this was an appropriate setting for him to mark his arrival as a rugby league player.

Thomas's involvement and running from deep were among the factors that put the Crusaders in command. "He looked every part a rugby league player," said his coach, Brian Noble. "In five games – what a transition. It takes some players a full season, but he has shown his rugby acumen."

The Welsh club were superior from the start, their early pressure coming close to yielding a try when Vince Mellars was held up over the line. Thomas then scattered opponents with a rampaging run through the middle, before his second major incursion led to the game's first try. Matt Orford kicked for the corner but Thomas caught the ball and carried it back 70 metres. He was hauled down by Dave Halley, but he had the nous to hang on and play the ball for Witt to score on the next tackle. The scorer kicked the conversion.

Sammut was introduced five minutes before half-time, and almost his first touch was the pass from which Witt slotted over a drop-goal. As a tactic it was from the archives of rugby league, but it was hard to argue with it after Crusaders got the ball back and scored again before the break. Witt's kick caught the Bulls dithering and Mellars slipped the ball back for Witt to score his second try, which was followed by a second conversion.

The Edinburgh experience has been marketed as the Wacky Weekend – it looked as though it was going to take something distinctly wacky to get Bradford back into the game. They almost got that when horrendously misplaced kicks from Steve Menzies and Rikki Sheriffe somehow put Thomas under enough pressure to force a knock-on. That inviting position, however, was squandered when Craig Kopczak knocked on.

Bradford's last chance disappeared when Clinton Schifkofske's brilliant tackle prevented Brett Kearney from touching down in the corner. There was time for Sammut to score – juggling a pass, chipping over the defence and getting a lovely bounce, he showed flair which would improve any side. "He's got the X factor," said Noble.

In the second match, Harlequins continued their startling revival with a 25-8 victory over Hull. First-half tries from Chad Randall, Will Sharp and Luke Dorn set Quins on their way, with Randall kicking a drop-goal. Kevin Penny's try took the game beyond Hull, although Danny Houghton and Tom Briscoe brought them a little closer. Quins had the last word through their man of the match, Luke Gale.

Warrington then thrashed a below-strength Salford 68-16, a result that was comfortably enough to take them to the top of the table, at least until Wigan play today. The Wolves scored seven tries in the first half, two of them from Chris Hicks. They scored another five in the second half even as they eased up, with Richie Myler getting two against his old club.

The winners of our Magic Weekend competition, in association with The Co-operative, were: Ann Sirrell of Yate in Gloucestershire; Mrs Sally Hall of Reigate, Surrey; and Alex Balmforth of Saddleworth, Oldham.

Bradford Bulls: Kearney; Sheriffe, Crooks, Nero, Halley; Sykes, Orford; Scruton, L'Estrange, Lynch, Whitehead, Donaldson, Menzies. Substitutes used: Godwin, Worrincy, Hall, Kopczak.

Crusaders: Schifkofske; Thomas, Mellars, Hanbury, Youngquest; Witt, Lupton; O'Hara, Withers, Bryant, Hauraki, Chan, Trimarchi. Substitutes used: Sammut, Peek, Thackray, Winterstein.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).

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