Bradford Bulls 18 Huddersfield Giants 66
If ever there was a brutal illustration of the gulf between the haves and the have-nots of Super League, yesterday was it.
While Bulls coach Francis Cummins was able to field only one recognised prop, Paul Anderson had an embarrassment of riches at his disposal.
The former Bradford man, famously a member of the ‘Awesome Foursome’ who would simply trample the opposition underfoot, was able to name a formidable bench, never mind starting line-up.
And it showed as the appropriately-named Giants utterly dominated the physical battle, allowing the visitors’ backline to run amok on their way to a Super League record victory over the Bulls.
For the best part of the opening quarter yesterday, Bradford were genuinely competitive.
After Scott Grix scored with only 45 seconds played, the Bulls hit back with a converted try from the impressive Adam Henry in the tenth minute.
That put Bradford 6-4 ahead before, slowly but surely, Huddersfield made their huge physical advantage pay in devastating fashion.
That three ex-Bulls players helped to orchestrate the Giants’ success – Joe Wardle scored twice, Brett Ferres touched down and Craig Kopczak was also prominent – merely increased the home supporters’ pain.
It served as a reminder of the talent that has slipped through the club’s fingers in recent years.
The Odsal faithful were quick to vent their spleen in the direction of rookie referee Chris Leatherbarrow, and with good reason at times, but the gulf in the class between the sides was clear to see.
Illness deprived Cummins of Adam Sidlow, leaving the Bulls with Manase Manuokafoa as their only front-rower.
The big Tongan was partnered by Chev Walker, with teenager Oliver Roberts and loanee Danny Bridge on the bench.
Facing an opposition pack featuring men such as Kopczak, Antonio Kaufusi, Eorl Crabtree and Ukuma Ta’ai, was a mountainous task in every sense.
Certainly the instructions of Anderson would have been simple: play through the middle, march your opponents upfield, take your chances when they come.
That is exactly what Huddersfield did, running in six first-half tries to establish a 32-6 interval lead.
Huddersfield’s pack is formidable at the best of times and it felt cruel to see them outmuscle the Bulls so easily.
Typically, Cummins’ players refused to throw in the towel and never let their spirits sag, scoring three tries of their own to earn them a warm round of applause at the final whistle.
Yesterday’s defeat, which leaves the Bulls on minus two points after five games, came against a backdrop of uncertainty surrounding the club’s ownership.
Dr Marwan Koukash was all smiles yesterday as he mixed with fans and posed for pictures with his wife Mandy and children.
The controversial Salford owner reiterated Mrs Koukash’s desire to see her bid to buy the Bulls prove successful.
It is understood there are five serious offers on the table and a decision will be made by administrator David Wilson in conjunction with the RFL early this week.
Regardless of whose bid Wilson accepts, the acquisition of at least two more props is vital.
Since entering administration on January 31, the Bulls have been stripped to the bare bones, with Jarrod Sammut and their two main front-rowers (Garreth Carvell and Nick Scruton) having departed.
Anthony Mullally would have surely loved to have played against his parent club yesterday, but he was denied permission by the Giants.
It is to be hoped he can remain with the Bulls on an extended loan as the pack that Cummins had at his disposal yesterday was lightweight in the extreme.
Things started badly for the Bulls when Tom Olbison knocked on from the kick-off, inviting immediate pressure which led to Grix finishing off some neat passing from close range.
Kopczak, making his first return to Odsal since his controversial departure in September 2012, was involved in the move and was roundly booed by the home supporters. He did not seem fazed in the slightest.
Nor did his team-mates, who continued to dominate up front before Bradford hit back in the tenth minute when Henry finished well from close range after Jodie Broughton had been penalised for holding down Luke George.
But six minutes later Huddersfield scored again when Wardle collected a pass from Luke Robinson to saunter clear.
The Giants began to move through the gears and Danny Brough and Robinson combined to send Michael Lawrence over the line.
When Crabtree and David Faiumu replaced Kopczak and Kaufusi midway through the first half, it summed up the strength at their disposal, in stark contrast to Bradford.
Huddersfield grabbed a fourth try in the 29th minute when, after Jason Chan was held up, some quick hands led to Grix crossing for his second try of the match.
It was one-way traffic as the Giants grabbed a fifth score in the 31st minute when Robinson scored after Kyle Wood’s break from deep and Grix’s fine assist.
Shortly before the break, Bradford’s line was breached for a sixth time as Chan went over, despite what appeared to be a clear forward pass from Lawrence.
At 32-6 down at half-time to a team of Huddersfield’s quality, it was a case of keeping the scoreline respectable.
Yet the Bulls, who lost George to a hamstring injury during the first half and replaced him with Elliot Kear, showcased their own attacking prowess two minutes after the break.
Luke Gale flighted a teasing kick into the right corner and Henry plucked the ball out of the air for his second try.
He took a knock in the process but was soon on his feet as Huddersfield turned up the pressure again.
The Bulls pulled a try back early in the second half through Henry but Huddersfield responded with three more in a ten-minute spell.
Brough and Robinson combined to get substitute Ukuma Ta’ai over by the posts before Ferres crafted a second try for Wardle, and right winger McGillvary used an overlap to register his side’s ninth.
Bradford’s replacement hooker Adam O’Brien prompted a brief celebration from Mrs Koukash when he took a tap penalty to force his way over from close range and Jamie Foster kicked a third goal.
But it was all very predictable as Ta’ai bulldozed his way over for his second try, Ferres deservedly got on the scoresheet when the Bulls failed to clear the danger caused by Grix’s kick and McGillvary exposed another chink in the Bradford defence to grab his second.
Castleford made it five wins out of five with a thrilling 19-16 victory over Hull FC.
The match was in the balance right up until the final hooter but Frankie Mariano proved the match-winner as the Tigers won at the death for the second week running.
Richie Mathers grabbed four tries as Wakefield thumped London Broncos 50-22 in the capital on Saturday. The Wildcats made it back-to-back wins with a confident display, running in nine tries to sentence the Londoners to a fifth straight defeat.