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Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Noble accuses 'gutless' referee
Bradford players restrain skipper James Lowes as he tries to appproach the referee
Bulls skipper Lowes (centre) was livid at the decision

Bradford coach Brian Noble accused referee Russell Smith of costing his team victory in the Tetley's Super League Grand Final.

The Bulls were beaten by Sean Long's drop goal in the last minute of a pulsating encounter at Old Trafford.

But a furious Noble insisted Smith, and not the St Helens scrum-half, had been instrumental in denying his side their second successive Super League crown.

"It was a gutless performance from the official in the last eight minutes," fumed Noble, who felt his team should have been awarded a penalty following an infringement by Saints skipper Chris Joynt in the dying moments.


We were so dominant but a couple of decisions did not go our way
Bradford captain Robbie Paul

"I thought we played all the football and I thought we were the better team. It is really hard to stomach."

Bradford captain Robbie Paul was equally frustrated following the 19-18 defeat in Manchester.

"We were so dominant but a couple of decisions did not go our way," said the stand-off, who will link up with the New Zealand touring party on Sunday.

"We said it might come down to an individual play, the bounce of the ball, or a referee's call. And it did."

Saints coach Ian Millward was reluctant to attach too much significance to Smith's role in his side's dramatic win.

St Helens skipper Chris Joynt lifts the Grand Final trophy
Joynt lifts the Grand Final trophy

Instead, the Australian chose to praise his players, especially for the way they adapted to the loss of full-back Paul Wellens after just two minutes.

"It just shows the versatility of this small squad," said Millward.

"The only thing that shook us was their two quick tries after half-time, but we kept our composure."

Match-winner Long felt he had wasted his chance to kick Saints to victory after fluffing two earlier drop-goal attempts.

"I thought I had blown it when I missed the kick in front of the sticks with nine minutes left," said the Great Britain international.

"But I hit the third a lot sweeter than the first two."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Graham Colley
"The big occasion suited St Helens"
St Helens' Keiron Cunningham
"Bradford had us rattled at times"
Bradford boss Brian Noble
"We're going to be around for a while to come"

Bulls 18-19 Saints

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