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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 April, 2003, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Bradford win Challenge Cup
By Phil Gordos in Cardiff

Bradford Bulls 22-20 Leeds Rhinos

Bradford's Robbie Paul is stopped by Leeds' Matt Adamson
The final was a bruising contest

Bradford edged Yorkshire rivals Leeds to win a pulsating Powergen Challenge Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.

Paul Deacon's penalty proved the difference between the two sides after the game had swung back and forth for the entire match.

Leeds will rue the chance they had to tie the game at 22-22 in the final five minutes after referee Russell Smith had awarded them a penalty.

But they opted not to go for goal and failed to break down the Bulls, who hung on for their sixth victory in the competition.

As expected, Leeds coach Daryl Powell gambled on the fitness of Australian forward Matt Adamson, who played despite having three titanium plates fitted in his face to protect a fractured cheekbone.

MATCH SUMMARY
Bulls 22 (14):
Tries: Paul, Vainikolo, Peacock
Cons: Deacon 3
Pens: Deacon 2
Rhinos 20 (14):
Tries: Connolly, McKenna, Furner
Cons: Sinfield 3
Pen: Sinfield

But Danny McGuire, whose two tries helped see off St Helens in that titanic semi-final battle at Huddersfield, was surprisingly left out of the 17-man squad, fellow youngster Rob Burrow taking his place among the replacements.

Adamson quickly demonstrated his injury would not hinder him by making four tackles in Bradford's first set of six.

But even his superhuman efforts could not stop the Bulls taking the lead when captain Robbie Paul touched down, although the inside pass he received from Tevita Vaikona looked forward.

The Rhinos responded on 10 minutes, Gary Connolly - who won the Lance Todd Trophy for his display - somehow scrambling the ball over the line and Kevin Sinfield kicking the conversion to level the scores at 6-6.

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Deacon, who had converted Paul's try, put the Bulls ahead with a penalty on 15 minutes after Barrie McDermott was penalised for a tackle off the ball.

But Leeds began to assert their authority, a Sinfield penalty drawing the sides level again before Chris McKenna touched down in the corner following a high kick from the Rhinos skipper.

Sinfield made it 14-8 with the conversion from the right touchline.

But just when it looked as though Powell's team would go into the break with a healthy lead, Lesley Vainikolo won the race to a kick through from Deacon to ground the ball in the corner.

Another impressive kick from wide out, this time from Deacon, ensured the two sides finished the half all square at 14-14.

Full-back Gary Connolly scores Leeds' opening try
Connolly scored Leeds' opening try

Bradford started the second half strongly, Jamie Peacock scoring the fifth try of the match, again converted by Deacon.

And when Deacon landed a penalty after Leeds had strayed offside to open up an eight-point advantage, you sensed the tide had really begun to turn.

But Leeds were not about to crumble, although giant forward Wayne McDonald joined the concussed Burrow on the sidelines with a torn calf muscle and twisted knee.

And when Dave Furner burst through the Bulls defence to score by the posts, the game was in the balance again.

We had an opportunity to take the two points
Leeds coach Daryl Powell

Leeds had the chance to tie the game when Smith penalised Joe Vagana for straying offside just in front of the Bulls tryline.

But the Rhinos chose not to kick for goal, a decision they must have regretted after failing to breach a stubborn Bradford defence.


Bradford: R Paul, T Vaikona, S Naylor, S Happe, L Vainikolo, L Pryce, P Deacon, J Vagana, J Lowes, L Radford, D Gartner, J Peacock, M Forshaw.
Replacements: K Pratt, L Gilmour, P Anderson, L Radford, R Parker.

Leeds: G Connolly, M Calderwood, C McKenna, K Senior, F Cummins, K Sinfield, A Dunemann, R Bailey, M Diskin, B McDermott, M Adamson, C Walker, D Furner.
Replacements: R Burrow, W McDonald, D Ward, W Poching.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford)




WATCH AND LISTEN
Bulls coach Brian Noble
"I'm delighted for us"


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