Cummins reflects on fifth consecutive season of failure for Bradford Bulls (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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They thought it was all over... it is now, as Rangi Chase masterclass is final nail in coffin for Bradford Bulls
Castleford Tigers 46 Bradford Bulls 34
Francis Cummins was asked after yesterday’s match if he deemed not making the play-offs a failure.
“Yes, yes I do because we were in a good position and have got a great bunch of players,” said the Bulls coach.
“You can look at games where we shot ourselves in the foot – a couple of Widnes games and this one today.”
It has to be remembered that the Bulls were third in the table heading into the match with Wigan in mid-April.
That was in round 12 and the home defeat to Shaun Wane’s side signalled the start of a woeful mid-season slump which ultimately cost the Bulls dear.
Despite the shortage of central monies available to the club, and the fact that Cummins had the smallest squad in Super League at his disposal, the Bulls surely had enough quality to make the top eight.
“As a group we are good enough to get there… but obviously we’re not,” reflected Cummins.
“We had opportunities to win games and we’ve thrown them away.”
The two matches against Widnes, Hull KR away and last week’s home loss to Catalan all fall into that category.
They took just one point from the four matches and yesterday’s result confirmed what many had suspected for a few weeks: the Bulls will miss out on the play-offs for the fifth straight year.
For a club who dominated the game less than a decade ago, that is a shocking statistic.
There are mitigating factors but yesterday’s defeat was characterised by some fairly shambolic defending.
You cannot fault the desire of Cummins’ players, who rallied hard and almost conjured a late try that would have levelled the scores when Brett Kearney was denied inches from the line.
That would have allowed the Bulls to level the scores at 40-40 but in truth it would have merely been delaying the inevitable.
Just about everything that could go wrong this weekend did.
First Hull KR beat Leeds at Headingley and then Hull FC pulled it out of the bag with a late winning try against Salford.
Then Catalan went and beat Wigan, putting them eight points clear of the Bulls before yesterday’s result.
Luke Gale was missing due to a minor groin strain so Jarrod Sammut was restored to the starting line-up alongside Danny Addy.
Adam O’Brien deputised for the stricken Heath L’Estrange following the season-ending knee injury the Bulls’ joint-captain suffered against Catalan last weekend.
Matty Blythe had missed the previous three matches with a knee injury but returned in the second row alongside Tom Olbison.
Castleford have shown signs of steady improvement since Daryl Powell took over in May and they have one of the competition’s finest talents in Rangi Chase, who tormented the Bulls throughout.
Jamie Foster should have scored in the left corner in the fourth minute but was denied by a combination of Jordan Tansey and Kirk Dixon.
The Bulls continued to probe and they led in the sixth minute when Sammut did brilliantly to pick up Manase Manuokafoa’s short offload and dive over the line from close range.
Foster added the extras and in the tenth minute Sammut looked to have scored again when Foster’s inside ball sent him over but referee Robert Hicks ruled the pass was forward.
Castleford steadied themselves and began to enjoy a spell of pressure which saw them hit back in the 12th minute.
After some fine scrambling defence denied the Tigers, Chase flighted a high kick to the right corner and Dixon beat Foster to the ball and grounded all too easily.
Dixon failed to add the extras but Castleford kept asking questions of the Bulls and two penalties in quick succession kept the hosts on the front foot.
Chase, typically, was at the heart of everything for Castleford and midway through the opening period he helped to orchestrate another opportunity.
The England stand-off found Jamie Ellis to his left and he in turn supplied Tansey, whose offload invited Michael Shenton to attack the Bulls line 20 metres out.
He was denied by some fine defending but the home side scored their second in the 21st minute when Chase found forward Grant Millington with a suspiciously-looking forward pass. Millington then drew Kearney before finding Adam Milner with a defence-splitting pass which allowed the young hooker to saunter clear from 20 metres out.
Dixon converted to take him through the 1,000 career points barrier and the Bulls were left stunned when Castleford scored again two minutes later.
This time Chase and Shenton linked up superbly inside the left channel to find Justin Carney advancing forward at pace to power over the line. Dixon added the extras to make it 16-6.
A fine run by Matt Diskin saw him find Sammut with a neat pass 20 metres out, with the Malta international being felled by a high tackle and earning a penalty which led to the Bulls scoring through Kearney.
The full back crashed under the posts from close range and Foster’s simple conversion cut Castleford’s lead to four points.
Ben Evans then replaced Manuokafoa and O’Brien came on for Diskin at the Bulls sought to get their noses back in front before the break.
They began to up the tempo as the interval approached and Addy’s teasing grubber kick forced Tansey to concede a goal-line drop-out.
O’Brien and Lulia were both held up in quick succession shortly before the break but Castleford scored again shortly before the hooter.
Chase was again the architect, this time finding Clark, who engineered the space to find Milner with a neat pass which sent him racing away from the Bulls defence to score his second try of the match.
Dixon’s conversion made it 22-12 at the break but three minutes after the restart, the Bulls scored their third try when Nick Scruton barrelled over the line from close range and Foster converted.
But the pendulum quickly swung back in Castleford’s favour as Chase showed outrageous skill to dance past a clutch of statuesque Bradford defenders inside the left channel before touching down from a more central position to give Dixon an easy conversion.
It was a brilliant individual try and Chase then turned provider minutes later when his kick was grounded by Tansey, Dixon’s conversion putting Castleford 34-18 ahead.
Straight from the restart, however, the Tigers let the ball bounce and Sammut was on hand to pounce for his second try and Foster’s conversion cut the gap to ten points.
Castleford scored again through prop Nathan Massey but the Bulls replied with two more tries, first Elliot Kear taking Adrian Purtell’s pass to score in the right corner before Addy finished off after some fine handling from Sammut and Diskin.
Castleford lost Charlie Martin to the sinbin and Kearney was then denied close to the hosts’ line in a fraught finale which culminated in the hosts scoring again through Jamie Ellis in the right corner after a mistake from Foster.
Game over and season over.
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