Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Thumping defeat adds to misery as Bradford Bulls fall victim to Saints revenge
St Helens 54, Bradford Bulls 0
The talk before last night’s game was that Bradford, decimated by injury and backing up from 96 hours earlier, were there for the taking.
Nobody said anything about falling apart at the seams.
The rugby gods were cruel to Mick Potter and his players again after Brett Kearney succumbed to a hamstring injury yesterday morning to join an already crippling casualty list.
Potter revealed afterwards that Ian Sibbit, already sidelined for much of this season, sustained a suspected broken arm in the one-sided clash.
Is there no end to the Bulls’ injury misery?
The Bulls boss reckons it could be at least a month before any of the Odsal walking wounded – that number is now 12 and counting – are back in action.
Significantly, Potter admitted his men did not perform anywhere near to their capabilities.
They started badly and got progressively worse, conceding ten tries and never really looking like scoring themselves.
Mercifully they now have a fortnight to regroup before they are back in action at home to Wakefield two weeks tomorrow.
The Bulls have been competitive for much of this season, yet this showing was a grim throwback to the way they capitulated too often last year.
Perhaps the bitterest pill to swallow was that the 54-0 scoreline was a fair reflection of proceedings.
Spare a thought for the few hundred Bulls fans who never stopped singing at the back of a windswept, rain-soaked terrace at one end of Langtree Park.
Like every Bulls supporter, they want answers as to Bradford’s future.
Is any investment to save the club forthcoming?
Or are this proud institution being primed to enter administration?
Stephen Coulby and Rowland Agar, who recently returned to the Odsal board, took their seats in the directors box before kick-off.
Andrew Bennett? The former director who remains an ardent fan was in a box watching with friends.
That famous win at Odsal back in March was epitomised by the kind of spirit which has come to characterise the club in this most traumatic of seasons.
If they could beat St Helens on home soil, why not across the Pennines?
Joint-skipper Heath L’Estrange gathered his men in a huddle at the end of the pre-match warm-up and looked to be breathing fire with his words. Sadly, the message did not hit home as Saints generally dominated from start to finish.
The Bulls kicked off and the returning Jamie Langley certainly seemed keen to make his presence felt with a number of big early drives.
Inside the second minute, L’Estrange found Langley advancing forward at pace to make ground despite the challenge of Saints second-rower Sia Soliola.
John Bateman also relished the physical battle and Luke Gale’s tactical kicking encouraged hopes that the Bulls had a game plan that could work. Yet Saints, whenever Lance Hohaia and Jonny Lomax got their hands on the ball, posed a threat.
In the fifth minute, Lomax found Hohaia but his progress was halted by a fine tackle from Tom Olbison. The hosts quickly recycled possession, however, and some slick handling saw the ball worked out to Paul Wellens and he went over in the left corner.
It was a typically opportunist score from the former England full back, whose speed of thought now compensates for what his legs can no longer achieve.
Saints are much changed from even Potter’s time at the club but, while Sean Long, Leon Pryce, Keiron Cunningham and Paul Sculthorpe have all gone, the likes of Wellens, James Roby and Jon Wilkin remain.
Soliola was a constant menace, breaking forward to dovetail effectively with Lomax, Hohaia and Roby.
Saints went close to a second try in the eighth minute when Josh Perry and Roby combined to find Lomax before Wilkin spurned the opportunity with a knock-on. Moments later some inventive play from Soliola saw him find Hohaia but poor handling put paid to the move.
The greasy surface and incessant drizzle undoubtedly played a part and the Bulls did at least fashion some field position when Ben Jeffries’ kick invited Whitehead and Ainscough to give chase. Typically, Wellens was as solid as ever and tidied up with minimum fuss.
In the 19th minute, St Helens struck again when Lomax and Hohaia combined once more to send young centre Josh Jones over for his first of three tries.
Four minutes later, Saints grabbed their third when Lomax drove at the heart of the Bulls defence and swapped passes with Soliola quite superbly before scampering clear from 20 metres. Keith Lulia’s desperate lunge was not enough to save the situation as Saints continued to move through the gears. That it was a classy score was undeniable.
Saints continued to engineer wave after wave of attacks and it soon got worse for the Bulls when the hosts grabbed their fourth in calamitous fashion.
After another St Helens set deep in Bradford territory, the ball skidded around the rain-lashed surface and Jones touched down as Bulls players stood statuesque. Gale then failed to find touch with one kick, much to the fury of Potter in the main stand.
On the stroke of half-time came another knife in the side of the Bulls as Lomax and Jones combined to send Francis Meli, in acres of space, over in the left corner. At 28-0 down at the break, the game was well and truly up for the Bulls.
Ten minutes after the restart, and with Saints still dominant, Roby chipped a teasing kick behind the Bulls defence and Wellens was on hand to touch down.
Bradford were pushed to breaking point again three minutes later when Saints replacement Mark Flanagan drove up the middle and made decent ground.
Saints were again too quick as Lomax’s exquisite long pass put Makinson over in the right corner for a plunging finish which he could not convert.
In the 56th minute, and after more missed tackles, Hohaia was afforded time and space to go over from close range for a try he deserved and Makinson added the simple conversion.
The pain increased on the hour when Michael Shenton sent Makinson clear inside the right channel and his pass sent Lomax scuttling over from 20 metres.
With two minutes remaining, the highly impressive Jones went over for his hat-trick score and Makinson, having landed seven goals from nine attempts, then missed the target again.
It meant the Bulls avoided surpassing the 54 points conceded against Wigan back in February – but that was scant consolation. Attendance: 13,025