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Bradford Bulls buoyant after Huddersfield Giants-killing as Jarrod Sammut turns on style
Huddersfield Giants 18 Bradford Bulls 43
Quite what the Bulls are capable of this year is anyone’s guess, but this performance and result should pour untold belief and confidence into Francis Cummins’ players.
Yesterday they faced a Huddersfield Giants side who had marched to the top of the Super League table on the back of four straight wins.
That it was the visitors who looked like table- toppers for much of the afternoon said everything about their performance as they conjured the perfect response to last week’s St Helens defeat.
The Bulls, minus injured joint-captain Matt Diskin, fizzed with vibrancy throughout but especially during an opening 40 minutes in which they scored four tries to lead 24-12 at the break.
Jarrod Sammut was at his very best with a hat-trick of opportunistic tries and Brett Kearney took his season’s tally to seven, having maintained his remarkable record of scoring in every game this campaign.
Matty Blythe also touched down again, along with Danny Addy, who enjoyed a fine game, before replacement hooker Adam O’Brien went over with his first touch amid raucous scenes.
With 20 minutes remaining, and the points already in the bag, the large travelling contingent called for Omar Khan to give them a wave.
The Bulls owner, grinning from ear to ear, stood up in the directors’ box and proceeded to wave at his followers like a modern-day messiah.
It was pure theatre and the bonhomie continued afterwards when Khan could be seen swapping high fives with players to celebrate a momentous victory.
It was supposed to have been the Craig Kopczak story.
The homegrown prop from Eccleshill was lining up against his home-town club for the first time since his controversial departure last September.
In the end it was a day to forget for Kopczak and Huddersfield, who were a distinct second-best to the Bulls in every department.
The performance evoked memories of last season’s stunning win on the same ground, when the prop played his part in a famous Bradford win.
But yesterday Kopczak, one of four ex-Bradford players in the Huddersfield 17 along with Brett Ferres, Larne Patrick and Joe Wardle, made a shaky start.
With two minutes played, he knocked on horribly on halfway and then conceded a penalty for holding down, giving the Bulls the field position to ask some serious questions of the Huddersfield defence.
From their next set, the visitors pinned the Giants back towards their own line and a fine piece of individual skill from Sammut saw him open the scoring.
After good work from Manase Manuokafoa, restored to the starting line-up ahead of Adam Sidlow, Sammut collected possession ten metres out.
He then dabbed a teasing grubber kick forward and fortuitously saw the ball ricochet off a Huddersfield defender and into his path.
Sammut needed no second invitation to scamper over and Jamie Foster converted the first of his seven goals from as many attempts.
Huddersfield gradually steadied themselves and twice Kopczak, to loud boos from the Bulls supporters, made driving runs up the middle.
Still, the visitors held firm and hit their hosts with a vicious sucker-punch in the tenth minute.
After some excellent sniping from Heath L’Estrange, the Bulls worked the ball to Addy. He flighted in a testing kick to the right corner, which Elliot Kear palmed back into the path of the onrushing Blythe, who plunged over the line for another quality score.
L’Estrange was leading by example around the ruck on his first start of the season and was eager to make the most of his opportunity.
There was a discipline and a structure to the Bulls which laid the platform for their early dominance.
L’Estrange continued to dovetail effectively with Sammut and Addy as the Bulls went in search of a third try.
Sammut almost scampered through a gap before Kearney’s short kick caused panic in the Huddersfield rearguard.
It was impressive stuff from Cummins’ men but they conceded a penalty following a high shot on Scott Grix and Huddersfield scored from their next set.
Kopczak was denied by a drive to the left of the posts before the ball was quickly recycled and some slick handling led to Luke Robinson ushering Wardle over in the left corner.
Grix failed to convert but Huddersfield, bolstered by the introduction of hooker Shaun Lunt off the bench, struck again in the 24th minute.
Lunt’s fine dummy running saw him drive at the heart of the Bulls defence and usher David Faiumu over from close, Grix converting.
Sidlow then came on to replace Nick Scruton before the Bulls forced the Giants back deep towards their own line and Kearney found the ubiquitous L’Estrange in space ten metres out.
The Aussie hooker spotted Addy in support to his right and a swift offload sent him diving over in delightful fashion.
Foster converted and moments later, Patrick replaced Kopczak to further boos from the travelling support, before Elliott Whitehead’s short grubber kick forced Huddersfield into a goal-line drop-out.
Keith Lulia narrowly failed to put Foster over in the left corner, only for the centre to overcook his pass.
But the Bulls remained in the ascendancy as the first half progressed and Kearney crashed over for a fourth Bulls try in the 38th minute.
A penalty from Grix cut the Bulls’ lead but they were well worth their 24-12 advantage.
They scored again in almost comical fashion five minutes after the break when Addy’s grubber kick found its way to Grix, who allowed Sammut to pilfer possession and touch down from point-blank range.
Blythe then made a vital tackle to hold up Wardle over the line as the Giants sought a response, which they found when Lunt grounded the ball after Grix’s bomb was spilled.
Grix converted to further amend for his error but O’Brien, literally within seconds of his introduction as replacement for L’Estrange, seized possession to score with his first touch.
The 19-year-old was mobbed by team-mates before Foster’s conversion put the Bulls 36-18 up.
Chants of “Stand up if you hate Kopczak” and “Kopczak, Kopczak, what’s the score?” rang out from the away end.
Sammut added a drop-goal to keep the scoreboard ticking over, Foster touched down in the left corner only to see his effort ruled out, and then Sammut knocked on when he looked destined to race clear.
But after the final hooter had sounded, Sammut touched down from close range for his third try and Foster’s conversion completed what had become a rout.