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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 May, 2004, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
St Helens 35-30 Bradford
St Helens (26) 35:
Tries: Hooper 3, Long, Gilmour
Goals: Long 7
Drop Goals: Sculthorpe
Bradford (12) 30
Tries: Anderson, Parker, Pratt 3
Goals: Deacon 5
Australian stand-off Jason Hooper grabbed a hat-trick of tries as St Helens held off a tremendous fightback from Super League champions Bradford.

Bradford's Karl Pratt also scored a second-half hat-trick on his comeback from shoulder surgery.

He helped the Bulls fight back from 34-18 down to set up a thrilling finish, but in the end Saints had just done enough to win a superb match.

The victory lifts St Helens into second place behind Leeds.

Despite missing Keiron Cunningham St Helens started at a lick, with Hooper scoring two stunning tries in the first five minutes.

Bradford opened their account when prop Paul Anderson powered over and Rob Parker then added a second for the champions.

Sean Long and Lee Gilmour hit back for Saints and with Long converting all four tries and adding two penalties either side of half-time the hosts led by 16 points.

When Pratt crossed for his first try, Saints soon cancelled out the score with one of their own as Hooper completed his hat-trick.

Pratt then added a quick brace to complete his hat-trick, and with Paul Deacon maintaining his 100% record with the boot there were only four points in it.

But Paul Sculthorpe had the final say with a late drop goal for Saints.

Bulls coach Brian Noble was critical of referee Russell Smith, who appeared to block Deacon in the build-up to Hooper's second try.

"It was a shocker," he said. "He got in the way of Deaks making the tackle."

Bradford conceded two tries in the first five minutes and Noble admitted: "We gave ourselves too much to do.

"But we showed great mettle and belief and I think with another couple of minutes we could have won it. Offensively we were as good if not better than them."

St Helens: Wellens, Albert, Gleeson, Talau, Gardner, Hooper, Long, Fozzard, Wilkin, Bibey, Gilmour, Joynt, Sculthorpe.
Replacements: Edmondson, Feaunati, Graham, J. Roby.

Bradford: Reardon, Pratt, Johnson, Hape, Vainikolo, L. Pryce, Deacon, Anderson, Paul, Fielden, Peacock, Langley, Swann.
Replacements: Vagana, Radford, Parker, A. Smith.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford)

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