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Bradford Bulls: Elliott Whitehead proves an unstoppable four-ce
Dewsbury Rams 6 Bradford Bulls 48
The result was essentially meaningless but Francis Cummins had every right to feel pleased with a thoroughly good afternoon’s work at the Tetley’s Stadium yesterday.
The Bulls ran in eight tries and had far too much speed, skill and strength for Championship part-timers Dewsbury.
Elliott Whitehead seized centre stage, continuing where he left off last season with an impressive four-try haul.
The homegrown second-rower, 23, was unstoppable for much of the game and also produced a delightful piece of skill to create a try for debutant Matty Blythe.
2013 could be a big year for Whitehead.
He missed the opportunity to represent England Knights at the end of 2011 and the start of last season after incurring a five-game ban for biting.
Perhaps this is his time.
England coach Steve McNamara knows Whitehead well from their time together at Bradford and, with a World Cup looming at the end of the season, impressing the national selectors this year would certainly be timely.
Blythe enjoyed a promising bow in the centres, Adam Sidlow punched some sizeable holes up front after coming off the bench and Jamie Foster kicked eight goals from as many attempts.
Jarrod Sammut and Danny Addy also dovetailed effectively in the halves and Heath L’Estrange was in fine form as the Bulls’ starting hooker.
But perhaps the biggest positive to emerge was the form of Nick Scruton.
The former Leeds man has endured two injury-plagued years and Bulls fans have rarely seen the best of him.
Yesterday he never took a backward step and Cummins went out of his way to praise him afterwards, which said much.
Throw in the fact that rookies Jobe Murphy, Sam Wood and Curtis Naughton also made their senior bows, and with no injuries reported, then it was little wonder Cummins spoke with real satisfaction afterwards.
Cummins took his place at the top of the main stand shortly before kick-off, with his family there to support him in his first-ever game as head coach of the Bulls.
Owner Omar Khan and honorary chairman Gerry Sutcliffe were also present as well as every member of the squad not available for selection.
Dewsbury actually began the brighter, and after Foster kicked out on the full from the kick-off, the Rams enjoyed three successive sets.
The Bulls held firm, though, and opened the scoring in the seventh minute when Whitehead plunged over after collecting a neat offload from Addy.
Ten minutes later the visitors struck again when L’Estrange sold Rob Spicer a delightful dummy to saunter over the line.
Whitehead crashed under the posts for his second and was then too quick for the Dewsbury defence as he collected a bouncing kick to plunge over for his hat-trick score.
Foster’s four conversions helped the Bulls to establish a 24-0 interval lead and fans chanted ‘Omar, Omar give us a wave’, which he did.
As referee George Stokes blew the half-time whistle, tempers flared as words were exchanges, leading to a tussle involving several players.
Whitehead produce a brilliant piece of skill four minutes after the restart. He broke inside the right channel, outpacing a clutch of Dewsbury defenders before showing intelligence to send Blythe racing clear with an audacious reverse offload.
Soon after, Sidlow sent Matt Diskin over from close range after good work from the excellent Scruton.
Manase Manuokafao then came back on in the second half and produced a bulldozing run to cross the line after a pack of Dewsbury defenders failed to bring him down.
Dewsbury, with whom the Bulls have a twinning agreement, were a distinct second best to Cummins’ men but they were rewarded for a late spell of pressure when replacement Dario Esposito barged over the line.
But Whitehead soon reclaimed centre stage with another close-range effort and Foster's final conversion completed the rout.
Attendance: 1,531 Ross Heppenstall