Bradford Bulls 30 Hull FC 18
Francis Cummins has spoken regularly during pre-season about how his players have been training the house down and got themselves in excellent physical condition.
Yesterday’s opening friendly gave substance to those claims as the Bulls outmuscled, outplayed and ultimately outclassed Hull FC with plenty to spare.
Cummins’ men were 24-0 up and in total control at half-time after tries from Nick Scruton, Adrian Purtell, Danny Addy and Jamie Foster.
Luke Gale, captain in the absence of Matt Diskin, led by example with a highly impressive first-half display as the Bulls blew off the cobwebs in some style before switching off in the closing stages and conceding three tries.
It is sure to be a big season for Gale as he bids to find his best form and stay injury-free after some rotten luck during the past two years.
The England Knights playmaker certainly enjoyed himself yesterday and looked in fine shape alongside Jarrod Sammut.
The new recruits? Lee Gaskell cut an authoritative figure at full back during the first half, breaking forward with his imposing long strides, while Garreth Carvell proved little that was not known.
The former Hull prop typically led from the front during both halves and centre Adam Henry burst to life with a try immediately after the break.
Addy and Elliot Kear, who switched to full back in the second half, continued the fine form they showed last season and during the World Cup for Scotland and Wales respectively.
The only negative was the sight of Scruton leaving the field gingerly not long after his early try, having appeared to injure himself in the act of scoring.
Nevertheless, the Bulls bubbled with creativity during the opening 40 minutes but it was their defensive prowess which will have equally pleased Cummins.
Make no mistake, it was a strong Hull side featuring over half a dozen first-choice players, including rising stars Jamie Shaul, Ben Crooks and Tom Lineham, and established Super League performers such as Richard Horne, Gareth Ellis and Joe Westerman.
Luke George and Dale Ferguson did not play any part but two Warrington loanees, James Saltonstall and Joe Philbin, made their bows off the bench.
A minute’s applause was held before kick-off to honour the memory of former kitman Fred Robinson, who passed away last week having served Bradford for over 40 years between 1964 and 2005.
The Bulls began like a house on the fire, with Carvell setting the tone with some big early carries up the middle.
That gave his team the field position for O’Brien to send Scruton barrelling under the posts from close range with a neat short pass.
Jamie Foster added the extras but Scruton departed soon after and was replaced by Manase Manuokafoa.
Hull gradually steadied themselves and came back strongly but the Bulls defended three successive sets with aplomb.
O’Brien, Sammut and Gale began to knit the Bulls together with some neat handling and in the 13th minute Foster almost touched down a grubber kick from O’Brien.
James Donaldson, who impressed at loose forward during the opening 40 minutes, did well to hold up Chris Green as he threatened to barrel over from Westerman’s pass.
That came at the expense of a goal-line drop-out and Lineham went over in the right corner moments later, only for referee Tom Crashley to disallow the score for an apparent forward pass.
In the 24th minute, the Bulls’ second try arrived when Sammut, Gale and Gaskell all combined brilliantly to send Purtell galloping clear.
Hull then saw Lineham limp off with an injury and on the half-hour Addy showed impressive strength to touch down from close range from Gale’s pass.
Five minutes before the break, Nathan Conroy, Donaldson, Gale and Sammut combined to put Foster over in the left corner. Foster kicked his fourth conversion from as many attempts to make it 24-0 at half-time.
With Adam Sidlow, Manuokafoa and Conroy having come off the bench in the first half, Chev Walker, Alex Mellor, Adam Brook, Sam Wood, Oliver Roberts, Saltonstall and Philbin were given chances after the break.
Immediately after the restart, Henry scurried over from close range and Foster again proved reliable with the boot.
The withdrawal of Gaskell saw Kear moved to full back and Saltonstall introduced on the wing as Cummins made a raft of replacements.
Henry threatened to grab his second after a fine kick from Brook but the ball eluded and Hull cleared the expense of a goal-line drop-out.
Scruton’s injury aside, it was a thoroughly good afternoon’s work for Cummins’ troops.
Lee Radford’s visitors hit back with three tries in the last five minutes from Jamie Shaul, Josh Bowden and Jordan Rankin, all converted by Westerman, but the Bulls were long since home and dry.
Bulls: Gaskell, Kear, Henry, Purtell, Foster, Sammut, Gale, Carvell, O'Brien, Scruton, Olbison, Addy, Donaldson
Interchange: Manuokafoa, Sidlow, Conroy, Mellor, Roberts, Chev Walker, Wood, Brook, Saltonstall, Philbin.
Hull FC: Shaul, Stark, Crooks, Arundel, Lineham, Horne, Miller, Paleaaesina, Cunningham, Green, Ellis, Thompson, Westerman
Interchange: Paea, Bowden, B Tyson-Wilson, Fash, Hadley, Pitts, Kent, Rankin