Bradford Bulls 10, Castleford Tigers 66
As Francis Cummins and Daryl Powell fulfilled their media duties after yesterday’s match, there was a quick exchange between the rival coaches.
“Well played Daryl, you were very good today,” said Cummins with a handshake.
“See you again in two weeks’ time,” replied Powell to his former Leeds colleague.
That was perhaps the only positive to take out of yesterday’s match; the fact that Castleford are back at Odsal on February 16 for the Super League opener.
The Bulls are sure to be much improved from yesterday’s final pre-season friendly. They have to be. It cannot be this easy for Powell’s men again.
The Bulls had their line breached 12 times as Castleford ran amok, scoring 56 unanswered points.
The Bulls’ left edge was exposed badly during the opening 40 minutes, with the first four of Castleford’s five first-half tries coming down that side.
Cummins was missing Lee Gaskell due to illness, while Jarrod Sammut, Luke George and Alex Mellor were absent through injury along with longer-term absentees Matty Blythe and Brett Kearney.
Garreth Carvell was rested but Chev Walker and Matt Diskin were fit to make their first appearances of pre-season and Dale Ferguson made his debut as a starting second-rower.
In cold, crisp conditions, the Bulls made an inauspicious start when Jamie Foster, lining up at full back, kicked out on the full.
Referee Richard Silverwood subsequently awarded Castleford a penalty which led to Luke Dorn opening the scoring in the second minute.
The Australian full back took a short pass from Liam Finn to break the Bulls’ line from close range and touch down for a try which Kirk Dixon converted.
The Bulls gained some respite when Grant Millington caught Adam O’Brien late and a penalty gave them the opportunity to build some decent field position.
Castleford were penalised again for holding moments later, which led to O’Brien, Luke Gale, Danny Addy and Foster combining superbly to send Elliot Kear over in the right corner.
Foster could not convert and Castleford continued to probe before breaching the Bulls’ line for a second try in the 14th minute which saw Michael Shenton usher Dixon over in the right corner.
Dixon evaded the attention of Adrian Purtell to finish well but could not convert from a difficult angle.
The visitors’ offloading game continued to cause the Bulls problems and they had a third try chalked off by Silverwood midway through the first half, with Shenton’s pass to Dixon clearly forward.
The Bulls steadied themselves once more and, after three penalties in quick succession, they made their pressure pay as Gale’s neat inside pass sent Nick Scruton marching over from close range.
Foster’s conversion tied the scores at 10-10 but Castleford were back in front three minutes later when Daryl Clark took Finn’s short pass and burst past a clutch of Bradford defenders to score.
Dixon converted and two minutes before half-time the Tigers struck again when James Clare’s exquisite long pass found Richard Owen in the left corner.
That gave Castleford a 26-10 interval lead – and five minutes after the break they scored again as Shenton went over in the right corner, before Weller Hauraki touched down three minutes later after Foster dropped the ball over his own line.
It got worse in the 54th minute when more missed tackles led to Finn’s kick being grounded by Adam Milner.
Ferguson then missed a tackle to allow Hauraki to score again, before Dixon twice finished clinically in the right corner and Frankie Mariano rounded off the scoring.
Dixon’s hat-trick of tries and nine conversions gave him a personal haul of 30 points.
Bulls: Foster, Kear, Henry, Purtell, Saltonstall, Addy, Gale, Scruton, O’Brien, Manuokafoa, Olbison, Ferguson, Donaldson. Interchange: Diskin, Roberts, Sidlow, Bates, Walker, Conroy.
Castleford: Dorn, Owen, Carney, Shenton, Dixon, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington. Interchange: Wheeldon, Mariano, Milner, Gibson, Channing, Clare, Seymour.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.