Rugby Union: Newlove keeps Bradford in hunt

Click to follow
Bradford Northern. . .18

St Helens. . . . . . .16

BRADFORD are still in the race for the First Division title, but only just, writes Dave Hadfield. A try from Paul Newlove, so often their saviour this season, gave them a victory which, while hardly smooth or convincing, was enough to take them back to the top of the table.

Bradford, who looked as though their two matches against Wigan last week had taken a good deal of the vigour out of them, now need to beat Leeds in their final game on Saturday and hope that Wigan slip up in one of their two remaining fixtures.

Bradford hardly looked like a potential championship-winning side, when, in front of an empty Odsal, they were carved apart by an under-strength St Helens in the third minute. George Mann and Phil Veivers split Bradford's defence to send Anthony Sullivan over. Bernard Dwyer converted.

Bradford had the appearance of a side that needed inspiration and they found it in David Turpin, drafted in for a rare first-team appearance. He fielded a Tommy Martyn kick and his break set up Karl Fairbank for a try which, with Deryck Fox's goal, brought Bradford level.

Even after that Bradford, without several key players themselves, were slow to assert their title-winning credentials, even to the extent of Fox missing a penalty after Roy Powell had the ball stripped from him.

Even when Darrall Shelford appeared to get the ball over the St Helens line, he was penalised for a double movement, as was Alan Hunte when he bounced over at the other end seconds later.

Bradford had a stroke of luck, however, when Trevor Clark's pass bounced off Shelford and dropped into Carl Hall's arms for a try, again converted by Fox.

Five minutes after the break, Saints stepped up the pressure, Hunte running down the left and lobbing a pass which Sullivan took for his second try.

Bradford continued to invite problems by hanging back from the tackle and disaster duly struck in the 53rd minute when Chris Morley, making his full debut, crashed over after Neil Summers had dropped the ball. Dwyer's goal gave Saints a four-point lead.

Only Newlove looked likely to give Bradford their missing momentum and just after the hour he was given a perfect opportunity to do so. Shane Cooper knocked on under his own posts and from the scrum Newlove weaved over. Fox's goal put Bradford ahead.

Bradford were still living dangerously and only a copybook tackle by Shelford on Veivers halted a move that could have put them behind again. With less than three minutes remaining, Chris Joynt lost the ball when he was headed for the line and Bradford's title hopes were again on the point of being extinguished. But Northern survived and will still be in there fighting on the last weekend of the league season.

--------------------------------------------------- STONES BITTER CHAMPIONSHIP - TOP THREE --------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Bradford. . . . . 29 22 0 7 732 545 44 Warrington. . . . 29 22 0 7 592 412 44 Wigan. . . . . . .28 21 0 7 709 385 42 ---------------------------------------------------

Bradford Northern: Barkes; Hall (Holding, 40), Shelford, Newlove, Turpin, Summers, Fox, Powell, Clark, Grayshon, Dixon, Greenwood (Hamer, 40), Firbank.

St Helens: Hunte; Riley Roach, 70), Ropati, Veivers, Sullivan, Martyn, Cooper, Harrison, Dwyer, Mann, Morley (Atherton, 71), Pickavance, Joynt.

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).