Graham in grip of a nightmare

Simon Kelner reflects on a sad experience for the Bradford full- back

For years to come, the Bradford Bulls full-back Nathan Graham will lie in bed, close his eyes and see a rugby ball spiralling out of a blue sky towards him. Then the nightmares will begin. Graham's afternoon under a fusillade of high kicks from the St Helens scrum-half, Bobbie Goulding, is one he is not likely to forget in a hurry. Three times in a seven-minute spell during a remarkable second-half recovery by St Helens, Goulding put the ball up towards Graham. A try resulted on each occasion and St Helens, 26-12 behind early in the second half, had done a better job at turning back the tide than King Canute.

It was an afternoon that saw rugby league in its best light before 76,000 at Wembley and a national TV audience. The match twisted this way and that before it was settled by the boot of a supreme performer who must have run his opposite number, Robbie Paul, very close in the voting for the man of the match award. Paul was a worthy recipient, but it was Goulding who made the decisive contribution.

There could be no ambivalence about the quality of fare on offer yesterday, even though it was difficult to work out what the match represented in rugby league's turbulent recent history. Was it the sun setting on an era, or dawn breaking over a new age? Rugby league supporters could be excused for feeling schizophrenic about yesterday's Challenge Cup final. For the last time, the sport's traditional day in the sun was the climax of a winter campaign and, as wisps of cotton wool clouds scudded across the sky, rugby league's re-invention as a summer sport seemed almost complete.

For the traditionalist, there was some comfort at Wembley yesterday. The build-up to the match was understated and dignified. There were no fireworks, no Sky dancing girls or Tina Turner impersonators, just moving renditions of "Jerusalem" and "Abide With Me".

But this is the brave new world of the Super League, and that means non- stop action and points galore. Gone are the wars of attrition; the last time Bradford - then known as Northern - lifted the Challenge Cup they did so by a margin of 12-0. There was no chance of that happening yesterday. From the third minute, when Goulding put Steve Prescott over for the first of his two tries, it was certain that we were in for a points-fest. In a remarkably well-tempered game - just one penalty was awarded for foul play - it appeared that the only thing that would blow a fuse would be the electronic scoreboard. The pace of the game and the searing heat at pitch level made inevitable the gaps that appeared in a second half that saw 46 points scored.

There is plenty in this new age for league followers to get used to, but as St Helens and Bradford showed yesterday, it's not all bull.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
people
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a Teaching Assistant...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Automation Test Lead (C#, Selenium, SQL, XML, Web-Services)

£50000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Automation Tes...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering