TWENTY years ago today, Bradford Bulls finally ended one of the more surprising droughts in rugby league, as they won their first Challenge Cup since 1949.

In that intervening 51-year period, Bulls had won two Division One titles, one Super League, one Premiership crown, two League Cups and a whopping six Yorkshire Cups.

They had reached three Challenge Cup finals during that time, but, as Bradford Northern, were well-beaten by Featherstone Rovers (33-14) in the first of those, in 1972/73.

They had to wait nearly 25 years for their next crack, before like London buses, two came along at once.

But they were beaten by St Helens in both 1996 (40-32) and 1997 (32-22), with the former defeat particularly painful, as Bulls blew a 14-point second half lead.

So when 2000 rolled around, Bulls got another chance to erase half a century of hurt. But it wouldn't be easy.

Leeds had thumped London Broncos 52-16 in the 1999 final to end their own 21-year drought, and several matches between Bulls and Rhinos around this period were nip and tuck to say the least.

But Matthew Elliott's Bradford side were in good form going into the Murrayfield showpiece.

They resumed their defence of the Super League League Leaders' Shield in March by thrashing Warrington Wolves 58-4, before beating the same opposition 44-20 in the Challenge Cup semi-final.

Big wins over Huddersfield, Castleford, Salford and London followed in April, meaning Bulls could not have been better prepared for their trip up to Scotland.

Henry Paul had been in scintillating form with the boot leading up to the Leeds encounter and he again proved the deciding factor.

But not in the way you might think.

After seven minutes, he gambled on kicking towards young Leeds winger Leroy Rivett, who was a try-scoring sensation, but considered to be suspect under the high ball.

The plan worked, as Rivett failed to challenge Tevita Vaikona in the air, with the big Tongan able to move the ball to Mick Withers, who scored in the left corner.

Another high kick, another Rivett mistake, and Withers was over 10 minutes later for a second try.

With Nathan McAvoy scoring a fine third just before half-time, Bulls appeared to be in control.

But with Paul failing to convert any of the three tries (he had kicked an early penalty), Elliott's side may have hoped for a bigger lead than 14-2 at the interval.

Paul's bombs weren't letting him down though. Another one early in the second half saw the Leeds defence make a real mess of it between them, and Stuart Fielden reached out to grab the ball, spin and touch down.

But Bulls, 20-4 in front and with the cup in their grasp, started to feel the pressure of 51 years of hurt.

With Iestyn Harris in fine form from the kicking tee and tries from Andy Hay and Marcus St Hilaire, Leeds got back to within four points.

But a late goal from Paul saw him have the final say, as Bulls held off the charging Rhinos to win 24-18 and take the glory.

Paul, who won the Lance Todd Trophy for his bombs and tackling more than anything else, said afterwards: "Winning with Wigan (in 1995) was great but this is better, way better.

"We're getting a family thing going at Bradford."

That family would go on to achieve great success over the next few years, as Bulls tasted domestic and international glory on numerous occasions.

Here's hoping, one day, we'll see them dining at the top table once again.