Rugby League: Bulls in control thanks to Paul

Bradford Bulls 46 St Helens 22
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BRADFORD WENT three points clear at the top of Super League last night, a commanding performance at Odsal inflicting a third defeat in a row on the early season leaders, St Helens.

Inspired by a virtuoso show from Henry Paul, the Bulls took a decisive lead with three tries in five minutes at the start of the second half.

Although Saints briefly hinted at a fightback, they were a pale shadow of the side that could not lose during the first three months of the campaign.

"We were out-enthused and outclassed," said their coach, Ellery Hanley. "We were slaughtered."

Bradford dominated the first half so comprehensively that Saints would have been relieved to be only eight points behind.

Paul was a particular torment to them, figuring prominently in all three Bradford tries, beginning with the searching run after seven minutes that picked up Leon Pryce with an inside pass and sent him homing in on the line.

Steve McNamara added the conversion, but a penalty from Sean Long soon got Saints on the scoreboard. Far more surprising, considering the weight of possession against them, was that they should take the lead, Long's jinking run setting up the position for Chris Joynt to power over, and the scrum-half then tagging on the goal.

After James Lowes had had a try disallowed, Bradford struck again, Paul Deacon serving the ball up for Stuart Spruce as he was tackled. Two minutes later Paul was there again, linking up with Lowe's kick and regather and lobbing out a long pass to give Paul his second.

The Bulls thought they had scored again when McNamara went 80 yards to put Deacon over, but the move was brought back for an infringement. Bradford should have been much further in front, although Saints also had a Fereti Tuilagi touchdown disallowed before the break.

Saints fell apart on the restart, Michael Withers keeping the ball in play for Mike Forshaw to score and Paul grabbed an inevitable try soon after. When Nathan McAvoy claimed his second the Bulls were running away with it.

A quick double riposte from Anthony Sullivan and Joynt brought Saints back to within 12 points, but further tries from McAvoy and two from close range by Lowes made sure that Bradford got last week's defeat at Leeds out of their system.

"This week we were mentally ready for the task as well as physically ready," said their coach, Matthew Elliott. "When we do that, it's a bad day at the office for someone."

n Gateshead moved level with fifth-placed Castleford after a hard-fought battle with Warrington at the Thunderdome last night. Thunder's Tony Grimaldi scored two tries but Warrington fought back in the second half, scoring 16 points.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce; Pryce, Naylor, McAvoy, Withers; H Paul, Deacon; Anderson, Lowes, Fielden, Dwyer, Forshaw, McNamara. Substitutes used: Howlett, Donougher, Harmon, McDermott.

St Helens: Atcheson; Smith, Tuilagi, Newlove, Stewart; Wellens, Long; O'Neill, Cunningham, Davidson, Perelini, Jonkers, Joynt. Substitutes used: Matautia, Sullivan, Barrow.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).