Bradford Bulls 25 London Broncos 12
They have lost three of their best players and six points since entering administration, but the Bulls still possess something arguably even more precious.
Spirit, togetherness and a refusal to throw in the towel.
After their points penalty was followed by Nick Scruton walking out and joining Wakefield, the Bulls could have easily suffered distraction yesterday.
They did not.
This was about a Super League institution standing up and reminding people they are worth saving.
Not for the first time, the Bulls produced the goods amid great uncertainty and ran out worthy winners, for the second game running.
In truth it was a scrappy encounter often made scrappy by Tim Roby’s officiating, but in the greater scheme of things it could turn out to be priceless.
That it was chiselled on the back of outstanding performances from homegrown players such as James Donaldson, Tom Olbison and Danny Addy made it all the more pleasing.
But there is no doubting who has harnessed that collective spirit among a small, close-knit squad.
Step forward Francis Cummins.
The Bulls head coach, a picture of class and dignity throughout the shambles which has engulfed his squad, was down to the bare bones with the players he had available.
He said afterwards: “I wouldn’t kid you by saying what’s been happening is not going to affect me or the players because I think you have your moments.
“But you either give in or you fight it and try and do your best.
“That’s what you have to do, you have to keep dusting yourself off because the only alternative is to give in.
“People behind the scenes, people in the offices, people aren’t giving in at this club while there is something worth fighting for.”
London Broncos are rated as overwhelming favourites for the drop but they belied their reputation with a feisty display which suggested they will get better as the season goes on.
Tony Rea’s side were also hit with four injury blows during the match but they never went away and only in the final quarter was Bradford’s victory assured.
London handed debuts to a trio of overseas players following their arrival in the capital.
Ben Farrar and Josh Drinkwater formed the Broncos’ new half-back pairing while forwards Nick Slyney and Wigan loanee James Greenwood also featured.
The loss of Scruton meant that Manase Manuoakafoa and Adam Sidlow started in the front row, while Luke George continued on the right wing ahead of Elliot Kear.
The travails of the past week showed in the opening exchanges as the Bulls began sluggishly.
London, with Drinkwater combining well with hooker Scott Moore, made all the early running and George did well to field a testing high kick from Drinkwater.
Moments later Gale dropped the ball under no real pressure and the signs did not look good.
Indeed, when Bradford opened the scoring in the 11th minute it was against the run of play.
The try stemmed from captain Matt Diskin collecting possession from dummy half and finding Addy with a neat short offload.
Addy kept the move flowing with a pass to Adrian Purtell and he in turn found Jamie Foster outside him on the left flank.
Foster showed impressive pace to make considerable ground from inside his own half before showing intelligence to send the supporting Gale racing clear from 20 metres out.
The Bradford diehards roared their approval and Foster’s well-executed conversion encouraged hopes that the Bulls were destined to prevail.
Shortly after, London suffered a blow when full back Nesaisi Mataitonga was forced off through injury and replaced by George Griffin.
That prompted a switch which saw Farrar go to full back and James Cunningham into the halves, while Mason Caton-Brown was forced off moments later.
In the 19th minute, Drinkwater flighted a dangerous kick into the left corner and James Duckworth celebrated as if he had scored.
Roby had other ideas, however, and ruled he had knocked on before grounding the ball.
Moments later, the outstanding Anthony Mullally replaced Manuokafoa and immediately made his presence felt with a number of big carries.
Mullally went close to scoring after another formidable drive but was held by some desperate scrambling defence from the Broncos.
The loss of Scruton and indeed Garreth Carvell before him represented a huge blow to the Bulls but it should afford Mullally an opportunity to shine.
Although his initial loan period is one month, it is to be hoped that he will be stay on a long-term basis.
Mullally’s work gave the Bulls the field position to claim another try in the 25th minute when Sidlow emerged from a thicket of players to touch down and Foster improved the score to make it 12-0.
Sidlow was then given a breather as Olbison was introduced before London hit back in the 28th minute when Minns beat Brett Kearney to the ball in the right corner to ground a kick from Moore.
Drinkwater added the extras to halve Bradford’s lead but Mullally’s aggressive approach continued to keep the Bulls on the front foot.
Four minutes before half-time, the Bulls went agonisingly – and for George, painfully – close to a third try.
Gale and Henry combined to find the close-season signing from Huddersfield in the right corner and he appeared to have burst through at least two London defenders to score.
However, Roby ruled George was just short of the line and he was knocked out cold, receiving lengthy treatment before being replaced by Kear.
Two minutes before half-time, London spurned a golden opportunity to draw level when Kearney failed to gather a kick from the visitors.
Moore raced behind him to pick up the ball less than 20 metres out and it appeared inevitable that he would scamper clear, only for him to lose his footing just short of the line.
It was a monumental let-off for the Bulls but the Broncos continued to probe after the break and spent much of the third quarter of the match camped in Bradford’s half.
But Addy superbly finished off a delightful run and pass from Donaldson for a third Bradford try in the 61st minute, giving them some vital breathing space.
London were not finished, however, and Cunningham scored with 13 minutes remaining after a mistake from Foster, who failed to deal with a kick from Moore.
That made it 18-12 but Gale’s clever drop-goal with five minutes remaining settled home nerves and Olbison crashed over in the closing stages from Foster's pass to confirm a famous victory.