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Saturday, October 9, 1999 Published at 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK


Sport: Rugby League

Saints hang on for final glory

Spruce powers through as Bradford wasted chances to score

Bradford 6-8 St Helens

Bradford wasted countless chances as St Helens took the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.


BBC's David Oates: "Bradford fell to a sucker punch"
It means Saints coach Ellery Hanley is the first British coach to take the championship in 10 years of the old competition and the new Super League.

Henry Paul opened the scoring for the Bulls in the first half, with a try and a conversion.

But a Sean Long penalty reduced the deficit to 6-2 at half time, and Kevin Iro pulled things round with a second half try at Old Trafford.

Long's difficult pressure coversion from the touchline sealed it for a side which finished five points adrift of the table-topping Bulls.

This was the Yorkshiremen's third knockout final failure at Saints' hands after Challenge Cup defeats in 1996 and 1997.

Recovery men in reserve

Hanley had opted to keep star scrum-half Long on the bench for the start of the big showdown.

The players' player of the year was held in reserve, as was Bradford's Mike Forshaw just six weeks after a broken leg amazingly healed through hydrotherapy.

Robbie Paul was denied an opening try on seven minutes after a flowing three-man move from deep, but his brother Henry did score midway through the half after a straight race.


[ image: Tuilagi is stopped during Saints' fightback]
Tuilagi is stopped during Saints' fightback
The former Wigan man received the ball from a scrum in his own half and sidestepped Sonny Nickle, who took up the chase as Paul charged for the posts, 60 yards away.

The New Zealander's loss of a boot slowed him, and Nickle brought him down no more than five yards before the line.

But Paul's momentum carried him across the slippery turf and over the line for a try which he converted.

Saints raised their game and after Long's introduction got points on the board eight minutes before half-time.

Referee Stuart Cummings penalised Bradford for offside and Long kept his cool to land a significant penalty from 30 metres.

Bradford were the brighter of the two sides at the start of the second half, and were a fingertip away from a vital second try just two minutes after the restart.

Video stars

Young player of the year Leon Pryce ran 50 yards for what seemed the perfect 18th birthday present.

But in the first of four second half video replay decisions, Michael Withers was adjudged to have knocked on before releasing the winger.

Bradford continued to have the lion's share of possession, but the 50,717 crowd saw Saints desperately fight back into the game.

Atcheson was held up a yard short before a heart-stopping moment at the other end when Lowes went over, only to be rightly denied by video referee Dave Campbell.


[ image: Try-scorer Iro provides some important defence]
Try-scorer Iro provides some important defence
With 14 minutes remaining, a break by Apollo Perelini created the opening as Kieron Cunningham combined with Long and Atcheson to set up Iro.

The man nicknamed the "Beast" went in at the corner and yet again Cummings signalled for a video decision.

This time a try was given and Long had the chance to take the lead from the touchline, landing a magnificent conversion.

Bradford threw everything forward, but it was Saints who were denied the final try, when the video ref ruled that another knock-on had been committed before Iro's celebratory run to the corner.

It did not matter, as Saints survived the remaining minutes to send most of the crowd home depressed at the Bulls' final hurdle failure.

Teams:

Bradford: Spruce, Vaikona, Naylor, Withers, Pryce, H Paul, R Paul, Anderson, Lowes, Fielden, Boyle, Dwyer, McNamara. Subs: Deacon, McAvoy, Forshaw, McDermott.

St Helens: Atcheson, Smith, Iro, Newlove, Sullivan, Sculthorpe, Martyn, Perelini, Cunningham, O'Neill, Tuilagi, Nickle, Joynt. Subs: Wellens, Hoppe, Matautia, Long.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes)





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