Bulls 18 Batley 44

THREE to go before the Bulls prepare for pastures new in the depths of League One.

A season that many feel should never have begun has almost been put out of its misery.

Then, at least, Bradford will start on the same level playing field as the rest of their competitors.

Unfortunately that will mean the likes of Hemel Stags, Gloucester All Golds and London Skolars.

The gallows humour of Odsal yesterday illustrated how many have had enough of a Championship campaign that has dragged from one low to another ever since their club was dumped with the 12-point millstone around their necks.

Just 2,609 had made the effort to break their Bank Holiday to witness the penultimate home game. They had come in the hope of seeing a third win on the bounce – something the Bulls had not managed since this time last year.

But even that small consolation was denied them as Matt Diskin's Batley showed no mercy with a 44-point rampage in the space of 26 minutes to blow away their hopeless hosts.

Diskin, like many former Bulls players, takes no pleasure at all in the demise of his ex-employers. But his men went out and did a job on a side that spectacularly imploded after a promising opening.

Believe it or not, but things had looked quite bright for the opening quarter. At that stage, the Bulls were 12 points to the good.

They could not have wished for a better start as the Bulldogs fumbled Lee Smith's opening kick-off into touch.

Sam Hallas swiftly backed up last week's first try for the club with another as he burrowed in from dummy half from five metres.

Having publicly stressed his commitment to Bradford before the game, it was fitting that the popular hooker should strike the first blow.

The feel-good factor that generated was threatened when Damian Sironen was left in a heap from another early raid. Play was briefly stopped before the Aussie could be helped from the field.

It was a significant loss early on but the Bulls appeared to ride the blow, Batley providing them with a helping hand thanks to a lack of discipline.

A flurry of penalties allowed the home side to maintain strong field position and eventually earned a team warning from referee Callum Straw.

A high tackle on Cameron Smith got the Bulls within 20 metres of the line and Liam Kirk barged his way over through two Batley defenders.

Everything looked to be going Bradford's way but the absence of Sironen had taken some bite out of the forwards. Yet nobody could have predicted the landslide to follow.

Batley, having threatened a couple of times only to cough the ball up, made no mistake when a quick-handling move was finished by Alistair Leak near the corner.

The hooker then turned provider to send in former Odsal academy product James Harrison for a second try.

Dad Karl, on radio duty in the press box, remained impassive – and his expression did not alter as his son helped himself to another shortly after.

This time the Bulls paid the price for a costly penalty and Batley took full advantage, with Harrison proving too strong for Iliess Macani.

Patrick Walker's back-to-back goals eased the Bulldogs four points in front as the shape of the contest changed.

The home error count was stacking up and Batley cashed in on another penalty as Dominic Brambani released Harrison to stroll through a non-existent defence for his hat-trick.

Walker made it 22 unanswered points for the visitors as the grumbles grew in the stands – and the half of two halves had not finished as Batley's powerful response continued with a fifth try.

The crowd screamed angrily as Straw awarded a spurious penalty close in and Leak twisted and turned to weave in for his brace. Walker's missed conversion, accompanied to slow hand-claps from the frustrated fans, failed to lift the mood.

But for all the grumbles at the official, it was the huge gaps in defence that had proved the Bulls' undoing. They were just far too easy to score against.

Smith's spinning kick-off was fumbled by full back Dave Scott but the Bulls ran out of time to respond as the half-time hooter sounded with the Batley line five metres away.

A lone trumpeter on the terrace tried his best to lift spirits when the game resumed – but the Last Post effectively sounded on the field as Bradley Day barged through a tackle to notch a sixth unanswered try for the Bulldogs.

It was so, so simple for Batley, with Bradford's defence seemingly powerless to stop them – and they were far from finished.

Brambani strolled through for touchdown number seven before claiming an unwitting assist for an eighth.

His kick was claimed by Lee Smith, who then inexplicably threw a lazy pass into space and Leak grabbed the present to complete his personal treble.

That was enough for some fans, who made for the exits – others shouted "embarrassing" as the afternoon descended into a rout.

The Bulls were briefly spared further punishment as Sam Smeaton's pass to send in right wing Wayne Reittie was judged forward. Worryingly, there were still 20 minutes left.

An attempt to stem the flood of points failed when Kirk dropped the ball on the line after Mikolaj Oledzki had been held up. A few ironic laughs in the stand showed the defeated mood among the faithful.

A couple of determined goalline stands prevented any further punishment but the Bulls were unable to reduce their deficit, James Bentley being hauled down a couple of metres out and Ross Peltier pinned on his back over the line.

They did, at least, have the final say when Macani scored in the corner in the final minute. Cory Aston landed an excellent conversion from the touchline but it had no bearing on a game that had long ceased to be a meaningful contest.

After days like this, season 2017 cannot finish soon enough.

BULLS: L Smith 4, Rickett 5, Halafihi 5, Mendeika 5, Macani 6, Moore 6, Aston 5, Kirk 6, Hallas 6, Peltier 5, C Smith 5, Bentley 7, Sironen 5. Interchange: Oledzki 4, Davies 5, Wilkinson 5, Pickersgill 5.

BATLEY: Scott 6, Reittie 6, Smeaton 6, Crookes 6, Ainscough 6, Walker 7, Brambani 7, Maher 7, Leak 8, Lillycrop 7, Manning 6, Harrison 7, Farrell 7. Interchange: Southernwood 6, Gledhill 5, Rowe 5, Day 5.