Rugby League: Martyn grabs Bulls by the horns

Silk Cut Challenge Cup final: That losing feeling again for Bradford as Goulding keeps St Helens alive and kicking; Bradford Bulls 22 St Helens 32 Tries: Loughlin, Lowes Tries: Martyn (2), Hammond Peacock, Tomlinson Joynt, Sullivan Goals: McNamara 3. Goals: Goulding (6)
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The Independent Online
For the second year running, St Helens kicked Bradford Bulls' hopes to pieces, but it was a failure to take their own chances rather than anything their opponents did to them that doomed them to a second set of losers' medals.

Although they finished well beaten, Bradford were entitled to feel that they should have been handily in the lead at half-time in this centenary rugby league Cup final that was delayed by 20 minutes due to the seemingly obligatory suspect package.

Generally the more threatening side, they had wasted two potential scoring positions with nervous knock-ons before the combination of Saints' half- backs Bobbie Goulding and Tommy Martyn caught them out for the first time.

Last year Goulding's high kicks tormented Nathan Graham. This time, his little grubbers baffled Stuart Spruce. Martyn, the winner of the Lance Todd Trophy as the man of the match, timed his run perfectly to get to the first and put Saints ahead after nine minutes.

If that was among the simplest of tries, Bradford's equaliser was out of the top drawer. Steve McNamara began it, drawing in the defence with a dummy and sending Sonny Nickle striding through the gap he had created. Nickle weighed up his options expertly and his pass sent Danny Peacock racing in at the corner, despite Steve Prescott's despairing tackle.

From this point the Bulls began to look ominous, with both Robbie Paul and Graeme Bradley finding inviting gaps to run into. The try that put them ahead, however, was a gift from Karle Hammond, whose attempt to pass to Danny Arnold went straight into the waiting arms of Paul Loughlin, and McNamara's conversion put Bradford six points ahead.

But then a virtual action replay from Goulding and Martyn exposed Bradford's rearguard once more, Goulding's two extra points bringing Saints level and bringing up his thousand for the club in the eventful three years since he joined them.

Peacock had a second try disallowed when he went over from McNamara's pass only to lose the ball in his dive and it was Saints who, against the run of play, went in ahead at the break. That was thanks to a remarkable feat of strength from Hammond who made up for his earlier indiscretion by managing to fall over the line and ground the ball despite five Bradford tacklers clinging to every part of him.

Saints almost made it a match-winning lead early in the second half when Prescott threatened to go the length of the field and score before being dragged into touch a couple of feet short by Matt Calland.

It was the next few minutes that were pivotal. First Bradford failed to score when McNamara split the Saints' defence - Martyn's fingertip tackle stopping Peacock - and then Abi Ekoku was held on the line by Paul Newlove.

Then Paul limped off to leave Bradford without the man most likely to get them out of the mess they found themselves in. The Bulls' morale was battered further when Saints hit them with two more tries, Chris Joynt charging through for the first and Anthony Sullivan winning the race to Martyn's kick, although it looked doubtful whether he had touched it down.

Paul returned, without having recovered full mobility and Saints went further ahead through Goulding's penalty before James Lowes' kick and chase saw Glen Tomlinson score for Bradford.

The Bulls never looked likely to snatch the match back at this late stage, though, and it was Saints, for whom Chris Morley and Sullivan had tries disallowed, who went close to extending an already comfortable lead before Goulding did so with another penalty.

Lowes' effort came far too late to change anything for a Bradford team still looking for the trophy to give tangible form to the remarkable progress they have made as a club over the last 18 months.

"It's something you don't want anyone to take away from you," said the St Helens coach Shaun McRae of the Cup dominance his side is beginning to establish. "It was going to take an almighty effort to take it away from us."

Bradford: Spruce; Ekoku, Peacock, Loughlin, Cook; Bradley, Paul; McDermott, Lowes, Reihana, Nickle, Dwyer, McNamara. All substitutes used.

St Helens: Prescott; Arnold, Haigh, Newlove, Sullivan; Martyn, Goulding; Perelini, Cunningham, O'Neill, Joynt, McVey, Hammond. All substitutes used.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

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