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Mick Potter celebrates as Bradford Bulls fans salute another fine win to climb into play-off zone
Huddersfield Giants 12, Bradford Bulls 34
Shortly after the final whistle, and after a little cajoling from mascot Bullman, Mick Potter headed towards nearly 2,000 jubilant Bradford supporters.
The Bulls coach, grinning from ear to ear, saluted the raucous away end chanting his name before celebrating with a punch of the air.
And why not?
Potter’s men had just climbed into the Super League top eight after another outstanding team display, recovering from conceding an early try before taking Paul Anderson’s side to the cleaners.
It would be harsh on Huddersfield to say the game was effectively over at half-time – but it would not be too far wide of the mark.
Joe Wardle, nurtured in the Bradford Academy before heading to Huddersfield, put the hosts ahead in the fifth minute.
Yet the Bulls fashioned another highly impressive response, Shaun Ainscough plunging over the line for his first away try of the season before further scores from Matt Diskin and Luke Gale established an 18-6 interval lead.
Huddersfield, who committed countless handling errors and were truly shambolic at times, never looked lively to recover after the break.
And so it proved as Brett Kearney grabbed his 15th try of the campaign, before Karl Pryce – a more than able deputy for the injured Michael Platt – provided a reminder of his ability with a well-taken brace.
Make no mistake, a top-eight finish will be a massive ask, given the tests that lie ahead against Hull FC and Catalan Dragons.
But only a fool would bet against Bradford now.
There is simply too much drive and energy coursing through the veins of Potter’s team – and their destiny is in their own hands.
There will be further good news later today when St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus releases a statement in which he talks from the heart about the importance of Bradford remaining in Super League.
He speaks of a rugby league powerhouse with over 10,000 followers who have done so much for the sport in the past 16 years of Super League.
Do not underestimate the significance of McManus’ public utterances of support for Bradford.
Wigan, Warrington and Leeds are similarly keen to keep the Bulls in the top flight.
Do not overlook that either.
The big four of Super League know that this is a club that simply cannot be allowed to let go.
It is to be hoped that a buyer can be found this week and that the club can move forward at last.
On the pitch, things are bubbling along quite nicely.
The Bulls’ philosophy on a greasy surface was simple yesterday.
Complete your sets, keep your heads, take your chances when they come.
John Bateman had missed the past four matches due to his international commitments with the England Academy side in Australia.
He came in for Tom Olbison before being forced off through injury, while Pryce replaced Platt after the centre was ruled out through a knee problem.
Huddersfield led in the fifth minute when Michael Lawrence found Wardle with a short offload and he burrowed over from close range.
Danny Brough, Huddersfield’s creative fulcrum, added the conversion to put the hosts 6-0 ahead.
The response from the Bulls was fairly emphatic, with Heath L’Estrange, Luke Gale and Ben Jeffries dovetailing effectively again to build some serious pressure on Huddersfield’s line.
Keith Lulia then embarked on a searing run down the left channel, finding Jeffries inside him before the Australian sent the supporting Jason Crookes haring down the flank.
His progress was halted but the Bulls were generally in the ascendancy in the opening quarter without being able to make their territorial dominance pay.
That changed in the 16th minute, however, when Gale and Jeffries combined to find Pryce and his delightful pass sent Ainscough plunging over in the right corner.
It was the least the Bulls deserved.
Gale’s excellent touchline conversion tied the scores at 6-6 and the Giants, save for the efforts of the effeverscent Brough, showed precious little genuine inspiration.
Diskin entered the fray to give L’Estrange a breather and moments later a clever kick from Gale again forced Huddersfield onto the back foot. Hargreaves was then replaced by Tom Burgess before Ainscough did well to field a deep kick from Brough. “Stand up if you love the Bulls,” was the cry from the away end.
French official Thierry Alibert’s decision-making drew derision from both sets of supporters and 11 minutes before the break Diskin showed outstanding strength and dexterity to break from dummy half, outmuscle several Huddersfield defenders and twist his way under the posts from ten metres out.
It was a fine finish and prompted chants of “let’s all have a Disko” from the away end, with Gale’s conversion increasing the decibel level further.
Huddersfield sought to find a response before the break but a fine tackle from Pryce denied Luke George in the left corner.
Bateman then picked up a knock and was replaced by Chev Walker on the stroke of half-time.
There was still time for Kearney to make a trademark break and show intelligence to usher the supporting Gale over the line for a third Bradford try.
Gale celebrated with gusto, throwing the ball in the away end and then converting his try to put the Bulls 18-6 up at the break.
Kearney’s willingness to support the attack at every opportunity constantly gave the Bulls another dimension to their game.
Huddersfield showed little improvement after the break, with the Bulls soaking up short spells of sustained pressure – which included a disallowed try for Jermaine McGillvary – before hitting their hosts with a vicious sucker-punch in the 58th minute.
A fine 40-20 from Gale led to the ball being worked out to the ever-willing Kearney, who collected possession 20 metres out, spotted a gap and had the pace to get through it.
He powered over in a diagonal run to the left corner, Gale again converting with aplomb to put the game well and truly beyond Huddersfield.
“One team in Yorkshire,” was the chant from the away end.
Huddersfield refused to throw in the towel but two pieces of play in quick succession told the story of the game.
Replacement Huddersfield hooker Luke Robinson threatened to burst clear before being denied by a superb tackle from Gale. Moments later, McGillvary knocked on horribly when well placed on the right flank.
With 14 minutes remaining, the Bulls grabbed a fifth try when Pryce sauntered over the line from a Jeffries pass.
Huddersfield hit back late on when Leroy Cudjoe crossed inside the right channel but the home supporters barely raised a cheer.
Brough added the extras. It meant little – especially as the Bulls conjured a superb sixth try late on when some brilliant handling led to Elliott Whitehead ’s audacious pass giving Pryce his second on a plate.
“We’ve got more fans than you,” sang the Bradford supporters to the home fans before Potter and his players returned the applause at the final whistle.