Pryce mars hat-trick with defensive lapses as Bradford Bulls draw (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Repeat dose from Smith and Holdsworth proves handful as Bradford Bulls are held
Salford City Reds 20, Bradford Bulls 20
A point gained or one dropped?
Luke Gale’s conversion sailed over the posts and into the large and rapturous contingent of Bradford supporters who had made the trek across the M62.
The Bulls were 20-16 ahead, yet there was always a nagging doubt about their ability to keep a tenacious Salford at bay.
Those fears were realised in the 76th minute when Jodie Broughton finished off in the left corner to level the scores.
It could have got worse for the Bulls had Daniel Holdsworth’s conversion attempt not missed the target. So the honours ended even and in truth it was probably a fair result.
Karl Pryce claimed a fine hat-trick but Potter queried the defensive side of the winger’s game afterwards after Danny Williams twice scored down his side in the second half.
Yet with just over half of the campaign gone – last night’s match was their 14th Super League outing of the season – the Bulls remain serious play-off contenders.
They have still tasted defeat just once on the road this season. Not for the first time this year though, the opposition were allowed to impose themselves on proceedings and it came as no surprise when Salford forged ahead.
When the Reds won 38-18 at Odsal in March, Holdsworth and Matty Smith emerged as the creative fulcrums for Phil Veivers’ men. Last night was no different.
A teasing kick from Smith was well fielded by Ainscough but moments later referee Richard Silverwood penalised Bradford for interference on halfway. That afforded Salford another set and the subsequent field position to pin the Bulls back towards their own line.
Some slick handling between Smith, Holdsworth, Luke Patten and Joel Moon gradually culminated in prop Adam Sidlow crashing over from close range in the third minute. Sidlow celebrated in exuberant fashion, throwing the ball into the away end before Holdsworth added the extras.
It was no more than Salford deserved for their early vibrancy but the Bulls, roared on by their large and vocal following, gradually steadied themselves.
In the eighth minute, Elliot Kear drove forward from full back but was felled, giving the Bulls a penalty and finally a chance to build some pressure on the hosts’ line.
It almost paid off as Gale’s delightful chip was crying out to be grounded by an onrushing Bradford player before Patten palmed the ball out to avert the danger at the expense of a goal-line drop-out.
The Bulls continued to probe as Gale began to dovetail effectively with Ben Jeffries and Matt Diskin. Twice they worked the ball out to the left channel but one fine hit from former Leeds winger Williams on Keith Lulia put paid to the Bulls’ progress.
Silverwood awarded a glut of penalties for both sides and had words with Diskin at one point, while Salford prop Lee Jewitt was flattened by one implacable challenge.
Potter brought on Manase Manuokafoa, Heath L’Estrange and Burgess as the Bulls began to ask some big questions of their hosts. In the 31st minute, Salford finally buckled.
The Bulls engineered a fine handling sequence which saw the ball pass through Jamie Langley, Olivier Elima and Keith Lulia before Pryce finished off expertly in the left corner with a plunging finish. Gale could not convert from the tightest of angles but confidence flooded through Potter’s players.
L’Estrange almost burrowed over the line from acting half moments later and then he produced a brilliant piece of skill to engineer the space to send Whitehead breaking clear at pace from halfway.
Whitehead made decent ground before his progress was halted but the Bulls soon had their second try in the 34th minute when Gale’s exquisite long pass put Pryce in for another simple score in the left corner.
This time Gale added the extras and Bradford fans revelled in it, taunting the home supporters with cries of “your ground’s too big for you”. It really did feel as though Bradford were the home team in every sense.
The Bulls held out a spell of sustained Salford pressure before half-time to establish a 10-6 interval advantage.
Six minutes after the restart, Smith’s stabbed kick behind the Bradford defence was a teasing one but Ainscough just about managed to gather with Holdsworth breathing down his neck. Ainscough did well again moments later, this time sliding to boot the ball clear at the expense of another drop-out.
The pressure on the Bulls’ line was mounting and then some meticulous dummy running from Patten almost took him past a clutch of statuesque Bradford defenders. His progress was halted but Salford kept the ball alive and some quick hands sent Williams squeezing over in the right corner for a fine finish.
Holdsworth failed to convert and moments later Lulia forced a knock-on from a Salford defender, giving the Bulls another set deep in Salford territory.
From that, Gale sent a teasing kick into the left corner and Pryce was on hand again to touch down for his hat-trick score in the 50th minute. Cue delirium among the visiting players and supporters.
Salford, to their credit, fashioned a highly impressive response. Typically Smith and Holdsworth were at the heart of it, with the pair combining to give Williams his second try of the game in the 54th minute.
Smith found Holdsworth with a neat pass and he kept the move flowing with a short offload to Sean Gleeson, who sent Williams in at the right corner. This time Holdsworth converted, putting Salford 16-14 ahead and moments later Danny Addy replaced Elima.
Whitehead’s fine break inside the right channel led to Gale flighting a fine crossfield kick to the left corner, where Pryce tried in vain to palm the ball back to a team-mate.
Yet with minutes remaining, Bradford struck in exhilarating fashion. It stemmed from a Salford attack as Smith and Holdsworth combined to find Gleeson, whose errant offload went straight into the arms of Pryce. He immediately tore upfield but his progress was halted on halfway.
The Bulls quickly worked the ball to the right, where Jeffries’ kick found Ainscough. He looked suspiciously offside but showed intelligence to usher the onrushing Burgess under the posts. Gale converted but with four minutes remaining, Elima was sin-binned for a professional foul.
Moments later Broughton finished off a sweeping move in the left corner after collecting a pass from Patten but Holdsworth’s conversion attempt sailed wide. Attendance: 6,829