Dewsbury Rams 38 Bradford Bulls 4
It is not often that a head coach sees his side outscored by seven tries to one but find plenty of positives in defeat, yet Francis Cummins did so yesterday.
The Bulls boss rested the vast majority of his first-team regulars, many of whom watched the action from the stands, and handed opportunities to a number of promising youngsters.
He was left delighted at the manner in which well over half a dozen Academy graduates acquitted themselves against a hardened Championship outfit in Dewsbury Rams.
Glenn Morrison’s men celebrated their victory with vigour afterwards but Cummins is not getting carried away with the result.
Nor should he, given that pre-season results are essentially meaningless.
At times during the second half, the Bulls had a team largely made up of teenagers, while Dewsbury were comprised of plenty of former Super League players and hardened Championship performers, such as Makali Aizue.
New signings Adam Henry and Lee Gaskell both started the match, along with Elliot Kear, Jamie Foster, Manase Manuokafoa, Danny Addy and Adam Sidlow.
But on-loan Warrington rookies James Saltonstall and Joe Philbin began at right wing and in the back row respectively, while Sam Wood, Adam Brook, Oliver Roberts and Emmerson Whittel also earned starting roles.
Seven young hopefuls in Nathan Conroy, Sam Bates, Tom Walker, Brad Adams, Steve Copeland, Nick Gomersall and Jordan Gale (Luke Gale’s cousin) came off the bench.
It was a Dewsbury side featuring Bradford old boys Karl Pryce and Wayne Godwin at left centre and hooker respectively.
A quick glance at the teamsheet confirmed the Rams had a clear advantage in terms of age and experience; indeed it was a fairly formidable Championship outfit.
Pryce was handed the captain’s armband but was withdrawn through injury after just 20 minutes, while the earlier rainfall ensured the pitch quickly turned into a mudbath, making freeflowing rugby difficult for both sides.
In a balanced opening, which saw Foster almost gather an errant offload from Dewsbury centre Shane Grady, and the Bulls forced to drop out, the Rams led in the fifth minute.
It came when Grady took a neat, short offload from Anthony Thack-eray to cross the line all too easily inside the right channel.
Tom Hemingway added the extras but the young Bulls steadied themselves and hit back with a try in the tenth minute when Gaskell’s angled grubber kick was grounded by Saltonstall in the right corner.
Foster could not convert from the touchline but Philbin cut an imposing figure in the second row and Addy showed some classy touches at hooker.
But Dewsbury were more than up for the fight, with prop Matthew Haggarty making his presence felt off the bench and catching Saltonstall with a late hit which sparked a flare-up.
Indeed, that set the tone for a number of heavy challenges from the home side as the Bulls struggled to keep the Rams at bay.
Aizue was a typically formidable presence in Dewsbury’s front row as the pendulum swung in the hosts’ favour as the interval approached.
They scored their second try on the stroke of half-time when Dale Morton finished off in the left corner to cap a fine handling sequence after the Bulls’ defence had been stretched to breaking point.
A 10-4 interval advantage was merited on Dewsbury’s part as they outmuscled the Bulls up front and took their chances when they came.
Three minutes after the restart, things got worse for Bradford when Dewsbury’s impressive full back, Louis Sheriff, stole the ball from Saltonstall and sent Morton over in the left corner for his second try.
That ensured Dewsbury’s tails were up and they scored again eight minutes later when Thackeray sauntered past Brook and then Philbin with ease to score inside the right channel.
Cummins, who conversed with captain Matt Diskin via headsets, continued to ring the changes as the match progressed.
Despite a spirited response from the visitors, they could not make their second-half pressure pay as Dewsbury held on before Aizue galloped clear for a fifth try with ten minutes remaining.
The hosts added a sixth try with six minutes to go when Aaron Brown touched down from close range before Thackeray’s second completed the scoring.
Dewsbury: Sheriff, Morton, Pryce, Grady, Scott, Hemingway, Thackeray, Nash, Godwin, Hepworth, Spicer, Hale, Brown. Interchange: Aizue, Haggarty, Tonks, Gallagher, Robinson, Hyde, Farrell.
Bulls: Kear, Saltonstall, Henry, Wood, Foster, Gaskell, Brook, Manuokafoa, Addy, Sidlow, Philbin, Roberts, Whittel. Interchange: Conroy, Bates, Walker, Adams, Copeland, Gomersall, J Gale.