Hull FC 44, Bradford Bulls 16
When Matt Diskin crashed over the line to put the Bulls in front after just two minutes, it encouraged hopes of a momentous victory.
The sizeable and vocal contingent of Bradford supporters, who began singing ‘We are stayin’ up’ long before kick-off, celebrated wildly.
Diskin’s try, after Tom Lineham kicked out on the full from the kick-off, gave Francis Cummins’ men a platform on which to build.
Instead, Hull took the game by the scruff of the neck and replied with three tries of their own to lead 16-6 by the 15th minute.
It would be harsh on the Bulls to say the game was effectively over even at that early point.
But it would not be too far wide of the mark.
Although Bradford replied through Adrian Purtell in the 27th minute, Hull never looked likely to relinquish control and so it proved.
They scored three more tries before the break to establish a commanding 32-10 interval lead.
The Bulls were often their own worst enemy; coughing up what possession they had, missing tackles and switching off at vital moments.
Cummins admitted his men played like strangers at times and there is no doubting the Bulls are better than this.
But take nothing away from Lee Radford’s side.
They are an expensively-assembled outfit and Radford had called last night’s match an “acid test” of his players’ resolve after two straight defeats.
If the Black and Whites, even minus Garreth Carvell, were something of a wounded animal, then it showed as they ran out utterly convincing winners.
Aaron Heremaia was a hugely influential figure at stand-off on his first Hull start of the season.
Props Mickey Paea, Josh Bowden, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Liam Watts, and back-rowers Gareth Ellis, debutant Chris Tuson and Joe Westerman, ensured the hosts dominated up front.
It was a bitterly disappointing night for the Bulls after they had arrived at the KC Stadium on the back of two straight wins and with seemingly genuine hopes of maintaining that run.
The loss of debutant Greg Burke to a shoulder injury in the second half merely compounded Bradford’s agony.
So Cummins and his players will have to wait another week at least before they wipe out their six-point penalty.
Last night was never going to be it, despite the early promise provided by Diskin’s try.
Several hundred Bulls supporters made the trek across the M62 evidently full of belief in their team.
They did not stop singing from start to finish and it was difficult not to hark back to the trip here almost two years ago.
That 24-18 defeat came in the week the club announced they were facing financial ruin.
A Quest for Survival began and £500,000 was raised before a much-publicised slide into administration and flirtation with oblivion.
Much has changed since then, not least the personnel wearing the red, amber and black, but there is a spirit to this club which continues to come to the fore at times of crisis.
Cummins chose not to start on-loan Leeds stand-off Liam Sutcliffe last night as Danny Addy continued in the halves alongside Luke Gale.
Sutcliffe impressed when he entered the fray in the second half and gave Cummins food for thought ahead of next Sunday’s visit of Huddersfield.
On-loan Giants prop Anthony Mullally is ineligible to play in that match but he was handed his first start for the Bulls last night in the front row alongside Adam Sidlow.
The Bulls enjoyed a dream start when Lineham kicked out on the full from the kick-off.
That gave the Bulls a penalty from which they immediately gained the field position to put pressure on the hosts’ line.
Some neat handling between Gale, Brett Kearney, Addy and Purtell found Jamie Foster inside the left channel.
Foster, who enjoyed a highly successful loan spell at Hull during the second half of the 2012 campaign, saw his progress halted.
The Bulls kept the ball alive, however, and – after Mullally was stopped just short of the line – Diskin collected possession and scooted over from acting half.
Foster added the extras but that was about as good as it got for Cummins’ troops as Hull hit back with three tries in nine minutes.
First Ellis took a pass from the impressive Heremaia to gallop through a gaping hole and score from close range.
Hull quickly forced back-to-back drop-outs and were rewarded for their persistence when Westerman forced his way over.
Jamie Shaul crossed in the next set when, after a calamitous mix-up in the Bulls defence, Fetuli Talanoa collected possession and then sent the full back scampering clear past the despairing dive of Foster.
Bradford did move to within six points of their hosts courtesy of Purtell’s try in the corner in the 27th minute, which capped some fine handling.
Following Diskin’s try, it was probably the Bulls’ only other chance of the first half but they continued to make errors in yardage and were systematically punished.
After Purtell’s try, Manase Manuokafoa knocked on from the restart and Richard Whiting showed good strength to put the Black and Whites back in control.
Heremaia went under the sticks on 32 minutes after good play by Danny Houghton before the hooker took an offload from Watts to crash over from close range to give his side a 32-10 interval lead.
Hull were quickly into their stride in the second half and extended their advantage when Shaul pounced on Richard Horne’s brilliant reverse kick to touch down.
Jordan Rankin powered over after a break in the scoring to make it 44-10 and that is the way it stayed until the Bulls grabbed a consolation four minutes from time.
An enterprising run from halfway by Sutcliffe put Bradford in a promising position on the last tackle and Luke Gale’s cross-field kick was neatly helped on by Elliot Kear for Adam Henry to score.
Foster added the extras from out wide but the damage had already been done as Hull bounced back from successive defeats on the road but lost Lineham to a suspected ankle injury late on.
Burke was also in considerable pain as he departed the field, raising the prospect of a spell on the sidelines and giving Cummins plenty to think about ahead of Huddersfield’s visit next week.