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Bradford Bulls slump to lowest point of season
Bradford Bulls 10, London Broncos 20
Gerry Sutcliffe joked after yesterday’s match that at least this was an improvement on the defeat to Hull FC a year ago.
The Bulls were stuffed 70-6 on September 1 last season in a record Super League home loss, with the match coming on the day that Omar Khan was unveiled as the club’s new owner.
Exactly 12 months on, this was another disappointing home defeat; not on the scale of that thumping to the Black and Whites but humiliating all the same.
Francis Cummins called it the lowest point of the season.
That felt about right.
London Broncos have been Super League’s whipping boys for much of the campaign, and will probably finish bottom, but they were too good for Bradford yesterday.
The Bulls were shocking in possession, their completion rate was subsequently low, and London punished them accordingly.
On the day that the club launched their season-ticket campaign for 2014, it was the worst possible outcome on the field.
The crowd of 7,148 marked the Bulls’ lowest gate of the season and was more painful to watch than the Tetley’s Challenge Cup fifth-round defeat at the Twickenham Stoop in May.
This was worse – much worse – as Tony Rea’s men came to the Provident Stadium and racked up a thoroughly deserved victory.
It was certainly no way to mark Khan and Sutcliffe’s first anniversary in charge of this famous old club.
Brett Kearney was ruled out with a shoulder injury sustained in training, so Jamie Foster lined up at full back.
With Adrian Purtell and Matty Blythe also ruled out by knee injuries, Michael Platt returned to the side at right centre and Sam Wood made his first appearance for the first team on home soil.
The Academy captain’s previous two appearances came in a Challenge Cup win at Rochdale and a Super League defeat at Wigan.
London, whose future appears shrouded in uncertainty amid doubts as to whether owner David Hughes is willing to continue funding the club, began strongly with Kieran Dixon and Jamie Soward their stand-out performers.
They included eight home-grown products in their line-up, testament to the work being done at grass-roots level to get youngster playing the game.
Twice in the opening exchanges Dixon was held up just short of the line as London forced Bradford into two early goal-line drop-outs.
Yet the Bulls gradually steadied themselves and began to ask some questions of their own, with Foster a willing runner from full back.
The Broncos, however, looked dangerous when breaking forward and in the tenth minute they fashioned a move which should have brought the game’s opening try.
Forward Antonio Kaufusi, who had done so much damage for the Broncos during the Challenge Cup tie four months earlier, found hooker Mike Bishay on halfway with a neat offload.
He in turn found the effervescent Soward inside the right channel and a simple pass looked to have ushered David Howell over in the right corner, only for the centre to knock on from less than ten metres out.
In truth there was precious little to get excited about as both sides struggled to create meaningful try-scoring opportunities.
Midway through the first half, Kear lifted the mood with a delightful run from deep which took him past a clutch of London defenders.
He found Wood in support before the teenager’s progress was halted.
The move suggested that, if the Bulls backed themselves, they surely had the quality to put London to the sword.
But London continued to probe and, after Danny Addy was trapped inside his in-goal area by the lively Bishay’s short grubber kick, the Bulls were forced to drop out for the third time in the 24th minute.
Scruton was then replaced by Chev Walker before Ben Evans came on for Manase Manuokafoa three minutes later.
A high bomb from Gale tested Dixon but he was up to the task as London had few problems keeping the Bulls at bay.
Ten minutes before the break, Diskin was replaced by Adam O’Brien and right away the former Siddal amateur looked to make his presence felt with a fine carry.
It was the Broncos who continued to look more dangerous, only for a lack of quality close to the Bulls’ line to frequently undermine much of their good approach play.
But with Soward an increasing influence on proceedings, London deservedly led four minutes before the break as he helped to orchestrate a move which culminated in James Woodburn-Hall sending Howell over the line.
Soward missed the conversion and his left boot continued to torment the Bulls as some stout defending twice denied Dixon a second London try.
As the interval approached, Keith Lulia broke down the left flank but his pass to Wood was poor and the opportunity was spurned.
The Bulls came out of the traps in the second half and got their reward in the 47th minute.
Tom Olbison embarked on an excellent run through the middle and, after his progress was halted just short of the line, the ball was recycled to Addy, who sent Lulia over in the left corner.
Foster converted superbly to put the Bulls 6-4 ahead and Jarrod Sammut finally began to get his hands on the ball, giving London something to think about at least.
A flighted kick from Gale then almost found Kear in the right corner as chances continued to remain scarce.
As the hour mark approached, Diskin came back on in place of O’Brien before Platt’s fine tackle denied Dixon after he collected Soward’s short pass.
But from the next play, Howell caught Soward’s kick to ground the ball unopposed to edge London back in front.
Five minutes later, London grabbed a killer third try when Gale’s pass fortuitously fell into Soward’s arms and he scampered clear from halfway to score under the sticks.
Dixon then passed for Mason Caton-Brown to score in the left corner with 17 minutes remaining, before Bradford hit back when Sammut sent Addy over in the left corner in the 72nd minute.
Soward was sin-binned for trying to delay Foster’s conversion attempt. He missed – but the stadium had already started emptying after probably the most depressing Bulls performance on this ground all year.
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