Wakefield 14 Bradford 20: Deacon's return helps Bradford grind out victory

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The Independent Online

The Super League champions Bradford showed great patience and durability to avoid a repeat of last season's opening loss to Wakefield, in front of a 9,000 crowd at Belle Vue.

Trailing 14-6 after a minute of the second half, when Semi Tadulala extended the home side's half-time advantage with a try superbly constructed by David Solomona's offload and Colum Halpenny's support play, the Bulls refused to panic and gradually worked their way back into contention.

Iestyn Harris ghosted over for a reviving try before the returning Paul Deacon tied the scores with a penalty. Deacon was then involved in the build-up that led to Brad Meyers combining with Shontayne Hape for the latter to grab the match-winning score just after the hour.

Deacon's comeback, three months after a life-threatening facial injury in Great Britain's Tri-Nations match with New Zealand, was heartening.

"He's been troubled by a hamstring and in the first half looked a bit off the pace," said Brian Noble, the Bulls coach. "But the more he plays the better he'll get.

"The weather conditions and a determined Wakefield made it a hard day at the office but we deserved the win in the end. We were admirable in the second half when a few players rolled up their sleeves."

Tony Smith, the Wakefield coach, said: "I was pleased with the effort but was disappointed we didn't beat them. We didn't have the ball in the second half and our defensive work took its toll. But the positives outweigh the negatives."

Wakefield, the last team to beat the Bulls in Super League, last July, scored two superb first-half tries. Ben Jeffries' kick direct from a scrum 40 metres out surprised the Bulls defence and Paul White, a close-season signing from Huddersfield, pounced on Karl Pryce's hesitation to kick ahead and score in the corner. Olivier Elima's shuddering hit on Marcus Bai, an early contender for tackle of the season, had set up the scrum.

The centre Jon Whittle then seized on a rebound after Deacon's high kick to the corner and raced away for a superb 80m try. Though Stanley Gene plunged over from close following a tap penalty, Wakefield were good value for their 10-6 interval lead.

Wakefield: Halpenny; White, Demetriou, Whittle, Tadulala; Jeffries, Obst; Griffin, March, Macgillivray, Solomona, Catic, Bentham. Substitutes used: K Henderson, Korkidas, Elima, Field.

Bradford: Withers; Bai, B Harris, Hape, Pryce; I Harris, Deacon; Fielden, I Henderson, Lynch, Meyers, Johnson, Langley. Substitutes used: Gene, Vagana, Cook, Ferres.

Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).