Rugby League: Paul's magic touch leaves Bradford on brink of title

Bradford 22 Leeds 8
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The Independent Online
Robbie Paul's return to match-winning form saw Bradford move to within one point of the Stones Super League title as they beat their neighbours and would-be challengers from Leeds.

Paul, largely thanks to a series of injuries, has been a pale shadow of himself since before Wembley, but last night he showed enough of his old spark to swing the match decisively in the Bulls' favour.

His influence on the outcome began when he delayed his pass just long enough to send Jon Scales in at the corner for the first Bradford try.

There was a further reminder of what a devastating player he can be when he skipped around Martin Masella's tackle after 15 minutes to go over the Leeds try line himself - a score that revived memories of an exciting player at his very best.

The next out of his bag of tricks was when he was the man on the spot to chase Steve McNamara's well-weighted kick to claim the Bulls' third try. With a McNamara penalty cancelling out Leeds' only points from the boot of Iestyn Harris, Bradford were well on their way to victory.

It was not an altogether smooth trip, despite the wonderful start Paul had given them, and if Leeds could have made more of their chances on either side of half time, the result could have been significantly different.

Harris got over in the corner after a lovely curving run but failed to ground the ball, Paul Sterling was carried into touch when he attacked the line from an interception, and Anthony Farrell picked out the wrong man in support when Harris's kick came back to him off the crossbar.

In the middle of all that lot, Marvin Golden did get over for a try, ducking through a series of tackles on his way, and two more goals from Harris brought Leeds, who were no doubt relieved that Paul was now resting on the bench with a sore shoulder, to within one score of the Bulls.

But then James Lowes, who had earlier spent 10 minutes in the sin bin along with his opposite number, Wayne Collins, for fighting, spotted a gap near the line and darted through for the try that put the match beyond serious doubt.

McNamara, generally off target, added the conversion and then a penalty after Farrell was punished for kicking out at Graeme Bradley.

Leeds were fortunate to finish with 13 men after their captain, Gary Mercer, took Bradley late and high. But the precise numbers on the field made little difference by this stage. Bradford had again shown that they are too good for anything in this country and merely avoiding defeat at Sheffield on Saturday will be enough to give them the spoils they have earned.

Bradford: Spruce, Graham, Loughlin, Peacock, Scales, Bradley, Paul, McDermott, Lowes, Reihana, Dwyer, Forshaw, McNamara. Substitutes used: Anderson, Wittenberg, Donougher, Tomlinson.

Leeds: Gibson, Sterling, Hassan, Blackmore, Golden, Harris, Brown, Masella, Collins, Mathiou, Morley, Newton, Mercer. Substitutes used: Holroyd, Cummins, Hay, Farrell.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).

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