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Bradford Bulls - World Club
Bradford Bulls won their second World Club Challenge with a 22-4 victory over Penrith Panthers at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium on Friday night. The Bulls won 41-26 against Newcastle Knights two seasons ago, and brought the World title back to the UK, following Sydney Roosters' win last year.
It followed on from their 'treble' in 2003, as Brian Noble's side tasted victory over Australian opponents and sounded a warning to their Tetley's Rugby Super League rivals ahead of next Friday's kick-off.
Bradford produced a superb first half performance to take a 16-0 lead into the break.
They matched the Panthers stride for stride in the forwards and had an edge in the half-backs which few had tipped in the absence of Paul Deacon and Robbie Paul.
Stand off Leon Pryce was a constant danger, with his probing runs often putting the Panthers on the back foot, and magnificent full back Michael Withers suggested that he is back to his best after his injury-hit 2003.
It was his break on 12 minutes which almost created the first try, stepping out of two tackles following Paul Anderson's offload before drawing Rhys Wesser and kicking to the left wing.
Lesley Vainikolo was unable to collect and the Bulls had a lucky escape when Paul Whatuira was denied by video referee Geoff Berry following great work from Tony Puletua and Luke Rooney.
Bradford finally snatched the lead on 19 minutes, Vainikolo leaping above Wesser to take Karl Pratt's well-judged chip into the in-goal area before grounding.
Lee Radford missed the conversion attempt, but Pryce doubled the lead on 25 minutes, slicing through the defence before brushing off Wesser and Rooney to touch down when he looked to have blown the chance.
Withers was this time unable to add the extras, but he tagged on a penalty after Craig Gower was caught offside.
Bradford continued to press, and took a 16-0 lead into the break after another Pratt kick caused havoc in the Penrith defence.
Withers this time out-jumped Wesser and Paul Johnson to collect, and he managed to feed Logan Swann, who dived over aside the posts and handed his full back an easy conversion.
He tagged on a further two points on 44 minutes to push the Bulls 18-0 up, after Ben Ross was penalised for interference on Vainikolo.
But Penrith were beginning to look ominous, with both Preston Campbell and Luke Priddis being stopped just short before they managed to cross the whitewash on 48 minutes.
Rooney and Tevita Vaikona both challenged for a Campbell chip, and the ball bounced free for Priddis to collect and touch down.
Shontayne Hape and Vainikolo tracked back to stop Whatuira after Campbell raced through when running the ball on the last, while Jamie Langley and Withers stopped the diminutive stand off under the posts with a brilliant tackle.
Withers and Peacock combined to stop Wesser benefitting from a clever Gower inside pass, and further last-ditch efforts managed to keep the Panthers' tide at bay.
And Pratt's 40-20 kick paved the way for Rob Parker to crash over in the corner after 78 minutes to seal a glorious triumph.