Rugby League: Bradford set out to settle old score

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The Independent Online
Much attention tomorrow night will focus on how the Bradford Bulls will recover from their Wembley disappointment. An equally intriguing question is how a second successive Silk Cut Challenge Cup final victory will affect St Helens.

By a glorious piece of fixture planning, the "best two rugby sides in the northern hemisphere," as the Bulls' coach, Matthew Elliott, has called them, meet again at Odsal eight days after the final. On the face of it, the loss of Robbie Paul, with a foot injury which Elliott says will rule him out for at least a month, strikes a blow to the Bulls' title hopes, but Saints' coach, Shaun McRae, is wary, especially after the late team changes Elliott made before the final.

"I've heard a whisper that Paul might play," he said. "I don't really expect it, but it wouldn't astonish me. In any case, I think Bradford go into this match with a lot of advantages. They are at home, and we haven't forgotten them sticking 50 points on us last season."

McRae also expects revenge to come it. "It can be easier to pick yourself up than get your feet back on the ground," he said.

Saints will still be without Alan Hunte. Steve Prescott, Anthony Sullivan and Chris Joynt were all having tests today, but all are expected to play in a match that could put the Bulls four points clear of St Helens.

Two other clubs with top four aspirations, Salford and Leeds, meet at The Willows, but tomorrow is also a pivotal day at the foot of the table. Castleford will climb out of last place if they beat Paris at home, and they could hardly have a better chance.

Paris sacked their coach, Peter Mulholland, this week and there are growing doubts about the sustainability of the one club that makes European Super League european. Castleford's new coach, Stuart Raper, will be eager to seize on the disarray of a side that is being coached on a caretaker basis by its captain, David O'Donnell.