Dewsbury 12 Bulls 16

IT WAS hardly an arena likely to match the intensity of the State Of Origin.

Having dropped the heaviest hint yet that he craves the vacant New South Wales post, the final road trip of 2017 for the Bulls was also widely expected to be the last away from Odsal for Geoff Toovey.

The hunt Down Under for a potential Blues successor to Laurie Daley will not focus too closely on the goings on at the Tetley's Stadium in a dead-rubber fixture.

But if they do happen to cast an eye, they will have seen a team still playing for their coach in the most testing circumstances.

Yesterday's game will not live long in the memory. It was an error-strewn affair in difficult conditions with few moments to savour.

Yet what they may have lacked in finesse, the Bulls made up for in effort to record a fourth win in five weeks.

Toovey has called the season a "tale of hardship" but his side have picked up considerably since relegation was confirmed.

The coach questioned their commitment in the dreadful home loss to Batley a fortnight ago. But that apart, recent form with the pressure off has been the strongest of the year with four away wins on the bounce to sign off.

"We're all going on a League One tour," sung the fans with tongue firmly-in-cheek. But they enjoyed the day – and why shouldn't they after a campaign that will have tested loyalty to the limit.

The Bulls were boosted by the return of Scott Moore after the virus that forced him to miss Sheffield last week. He came into the 17 for Jon Magrin.

Ethan Ryan played through the pain of the shoulder injury he suffered in the win over the Eagles.

Dewsbury were still sore from being 'nilled' by Batley – and their pain increased with a self-inflicted wound inside the opening five minutes.

Vila Halafihi's grubber kick was fielded by James Glover under his own posts but the full back spilled the ball in the tackle and it popped up for Cory Aston to dive in with the try.

But the lead was a brief one – with a touch of good fortune about the Dewsbury response. Hooker Dom Speakman followed up his own short kick to pounce on the loose ball after it bounced off Liam Kirk's knee.

Dewsbury had a stiff breeze behind them and a penalty allowed Paul Sykes to boot them well into scoring range. Again they focused on the left flank, with Speakman's pass from dummy half sending Aaron Brown twisting through a tackle to cross.

The swirling wind made it a test to judge kicks and Bulls skipper Lee Smith put just too much on one from close range that ran dead.

With the tight pitch, it made for a scrappy encounter, but Ross Peltier defied the driving rain with a trademark bulldozing run – only to lose the ball as he went over for what would have been only his second try of the season.

Dewsbury went down to 12 men on the half-hour mark when Sykes was yellow-carded after referee Nick Bennett took exception to his challenge on James Bentley.

The former Bulls stand-off swaggered off the pitch with the hint of a smile – and some good-natured stick from the travelling fans ringing in his ears.

Glover was having an uncomfortable afternoon and the Dewsbury full back's butter fingers were at it again when he lost Joe Keyes' kick in the wind.

It gave the Bulls a great chance to make the numerical advantage count but Ryan was held up over the line before a forward pass wasted the scoring opportunity.

They did manage to level two minutes before the hooter – and it was that man Peltier taking matters into his own hands.

Glover hacked Bentley's kick into the car park behind but the referee had spotted a hit on the second-rower after the ball had gone.

This time the Bulls made the most of it and Moore took them right under the posts. From there, Peltier ploughed in from dummy half to the delight of the away support.

Aston's second conversion levelled it up at the break – a big improvement on the 38-12 beating the Bulls had taken on the same ground in June.

They also had the advantage of the blustery conditions for the second half, Aston using it straight away with a booming kick that had Glover scurrying deep into his in-goal to retrieve.

Gareth Potts set off on a dangerous break out of defence but Keyes just about managed to hang on to him as an empty field beckoned invitingly for the Rams winger.

It was becoming an old-fashioned scrap and Colton Roche delivered a mighty hit under his own posts to force a Dewsbury knock-on from a scoring position.

But Sykes' indiscipline proved Dewsbury's downfall once more. He interfered with the ruck and the Bulls used the penalty to get within 20 metres.

Bentley was dragged down just short but Lee Smith received the ball from dummy half to weave in for the try. Aston's kick from near the touchline drifted narrowly left but the Bulls had their noses back in front.

The contest was becoming scrappier and error-strewn, its stop-start nature not helped by the constant whistling from the official.

Damian Sironen pounced on a grubber kick on his own line as the Bulls' defence displayed steel under increasing home pressure.

Dewsbury were succeeding in winding up Bentley and the St Helens-bound youngster was caught up in a couple of incidents with Jack Teanby and Michael Knowles.

Good pressure from Aston forced a wild pass into touch as the home fans began to grow impatient.

"It's getting as bad as union," moaned one local – before the Bulls contingent were up in arms as Aston appeared to be taken out late.

The touch judge came on for a conflab but the referee was happy to let Macauley Hallett off with a stiff talking-to.

Another late defensive stand defied the Rams once more, with a huge cheer greeting Ryan as he flopped on Sykes' kick by the line.