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Rampant Hull spoil the Bradford Bulls party
Things had started so well for the Bulls after Jason Crookes, far right, got the first points on the board
Bradford Bulls 6 Hull FC 70
The dream is over.
Not my words but those of a Tetley’s Stand regular – morose and resigned, like every Bull in Bradford.
Saturday’s visit of Hull FC was supposed to be a welcome party for new-owners-in-waiting Gerry Sutcliffe and Omar Khan.
The sun was shining, the scene was set, the stage was theirs.
Fifteen minutes before kick-off the pair emerged from the tunnel and were introduced to the crowd.
Both men waved to fans and Khan punched the air in front of the Popular Side terrace.
When Take That’s ‘Greatest day’ boomed out over the tannoy, it felt entirely apt.
Never mind the fact that the governing body have yet to even grant them RFL membership, the feel-good factor was palpable.
Odsal basked in a collective glow.
Less than two hours later, Mick Potter’s team had been reduced to rubble by a remarkable display from Hull FC.
The Bulls’ fate is now out of their hands but it was hard not to feel that their season – and that dream of making the top eight – is now over.
After a humiliation on this scale, some perspective is required.
The players have been battling against a weight of uncertainty since news of the club’s financial crisis first broke on March 27.
New owners then announce themselves and the team capitulates.
The raw emotions of what these players and their coaching staff have been through this season had to tell at some point.
Saturday night was it.
It was the Bulls’ heaviest defeat of the Super League era, and all in front of a live audience on Sky.
Bradford were certainly done no favours by referee Ben Thaler and the sin-binning of Ben Jeffries proved crucial in turning the game in Hull’s favour.
But there was no justification for conceding 13 tries.
Hull are a decent side with a handful of fine players but have struggled for consistency this season, yet they outclassed the Bulls comprehensively.
After a campaign which will go down in Bradford folklore, for reasons right and wrong, this was no way to end it on home soil.
The vibrancy off the field, which has done so much to inspire the Bulls during these past few months, seemed to initially transmit itself to Potter’s players again.
They fashioned a lively start, fizzing with energy, which was rewarded with a try for Hull FC-bound Jason Crookes in the left corner after some neat handling between Luke Gale, Brett Kearney and Keith Lulia.
When Gale’s superb touchline conversion sailed between the posts, the Bulls seemed destined to prevail.
Hull had other ideas.
They struck twice while the Bulls were down to 12 men through the controversial sin-binning of Jeffries.
In the fifth minute, Tom Briscoe, who claimed a second-half hat-trick, collected possession inside Hull’s half.
Briscoe showed a clean pair of heels to embark on a strong run down the left flank but Heath L’Estrange did superbly to get a grip of the England man and haul him to the ground.
Jeffries then got in on the act, bundling Briscoe into touch and earning a yellow card for a professional foul.
Hull made their numerical advantage pay, with Joe Westerman crashing over the line from Ryan McGoldrick’s short pass and Jamie Foster landing the first of his nine conversions.
Four minutes later, Westerman showed intelligence to create space in the right corner to usher Foster over the line.
Foster had endured a truly woeful night at Odsal on his previous visit in March when the Bulls beat Saints to signal the end of Royce Simmons’ reign.
Nevertheless, he has enjoyed a fruitful spell at the KC Stadium and his smart finish was testament to his finishing abilities.
Yet the Bulls continued to look dangerous with the ball in hand.
Once again, L’Estrange was menacing around the ruck and linked up effectively with Gale and Jeffries.
Gale found L’Estrange and his offload afforded Elliott Whitehead the chance to drive at the heart of the Hull defence.
Whitehead spotted Shaun Ainscough advancing in the right corner but his kick was overcooked and the opportunity was spurned.
In the 16th minute, after a promising Bulls attack had broken down, McGoldrick collected possession on his own 20-metre line.
He showed impressive pace to scamper down the right flank before Ainscough displayed remarkable speed and no little desire to haul down the Australian.
McGoldrick still had chance to ground the loose ball and looked destined to do so until Ainscough got a fingertip to deny him and rescue the situation again.
They were two brilliant pieces of defending but moments later a teasing grubber kick from Briscoe on the left flank was touched down by the marauding Willie Manu.
The Bulls’ hopes were then dealt a blow when Karl Pryce was forced off through injury, sending Whitehead into the centres and Olivier Elima off the bench and into the second row.
Briscoe was penalised for holding down Elima, giving the Bulls a penalty deep in Hull territory.
The Black and Whites could easily have buckled as the Bulls battered their line. They did not.
After holding out, they won a penalty of their own, which gave them the opportunity to strike a killer blow.
In truth it was quality stuff from Peter Gentle’s men as they conjured a delightful handling sequence which saw the ball go through at least four players and culminated in Danny Houghton galloping over the line.
It got worse for Bradford as Manu embarked on another lung-bursting run down the left channel, finding Ben Crooks before taking the reverse pass and powering over the line for his second.
It was another quality score, which Foster converted, and a 28-6 interval deficit left the Bulls facing a mountainous task.
It got worse in the 44th minute when Richard Horne showed superb skill to engineer the space to send Aaron Heremaia over the line.
Minutes later Hull broke Bradford’s line again down the left flank, with Briscoe this time racing clear.
Brett Seymour then committed a spear tackle on Crookes which Thaler ignored.
The Bulls refused to throw in the towel and continued to probe.
But in truth the second half was a scrappy, error-strewn affair and Hull were ruthless with the chances that came their way.
Jordan Turner was a constant menace for Hull and they gradually made their class pay when Briscoe touched down again in the left corner.
Crooks then sauntered over the line unopposed before former Bulls skipper Andy Lynch took a flat pass to crash over from close range.
That was perhaps the ultimate insult but there was still time for Heremaia to go over in the left corner for his second.
Turner then slipped Foster in at the right corner before Briscoe raced clear for his hat-trick score right at the death.