Hull FC 28 Bradford Bulls 12
Francis Cummins cannot say he did not see this coming.
The Bulls coach had spoken about the need for his players to match Hull’s desire after their opening-day defeat at Leeds.
“We’re going to definitely get the backlash from Hull but that’s the challenge for us,” Cummins had said.
“We’re not just taking on Hull, we’re taking on some desperate people.”
They were prophetic words.
The desperation that Cummins spoke of was all too apparent in the start that Peter Gentle’s men made in yesterday’s rearranged fixture.
They opened up a third-minute lead courtesy of ex-Bull Jason Crookes, who celebrated his try with gusto and almost claimed a second soon after, only to knock on horribly.
Nevertheless, Crookes’ kick created a second Hull try for Shannon McDonnell in the 24th minute and from there the Black and Whites never really looked back.
Their 12-0 interval lead, though, did not tell the full story of the opening half.
The Bulls, after a fairly awful first ten minutes which saw them fall behind and lose Michael Platt to concussion, forcing a major reshuffle, steadied themselves in impressive fashion.
They battered Hull’s line for long periods, forcing at least four successive sets at one point and three goal-line drop-outs.
But could they make their pressure pay?
Sadly, the answer was negative.
They lacked the guile to open up an obstinate Hull FC outfit still smarting from their opening-day defeat at Headingley.
Hull added a killer third try six minutes after the break through England winger Tom Briscoe before further scores from Daniel Holdsworth and Jay Pitts compounded the Bulls’ agony.
It was a reality check for Cummins’ men after their annihilation of Wakefield seven days earlier but they never threw in the towel.
Second-half tries from Matty Blythe and Brett Kearney were probably the least they deserved for their spells of pressure, not to mention their spirit.
Bradford’s previous Super League outing at Hull FC came last March, just three days after it was announced the club was on the brink of a full-blown financial crisis.
The Bulls were something of a soap opera off the field last year but there were a few notable sub-plots on it yesterday with Crookes, Foster and Andy Lynch all lining up against their old clubs.
Hull had won their last six meetings against Bradford, with the Bulls’ last win against the Black and Whites coming 21-18 at the KC Stadium on September 11, 2009.
Heading on to the field shortly before kick-off, it became apparent that the Bulls were entering a lion’s den.
That analogy was apt, because Hull were a wounded animal after last week’s 36-6 reverse at Leeds.
“Where were you on Friday night?” sang the visiting supporters but it was Bradford who failed to turn up in the opening ten minutes.
Hull began with aggression and purpose and prop Mark O’Meley punched some sizeable holes in the Bulls defence and Chris Green looked similarly up for it at loose forward.
After the Bulls were penalised by referee Richard Silverwood for an incorrect play-the-ball on halfway inside the third minute, Hull forged ahead.
They worked the ball from left to right with a devastating handling sequence which culminated in Richard Horne finding Joe Westerman and his pass sent Crookes bustling over in the right corner.
Crookes celebrated by throwing the ball high into the air, suggesting he had a point to prove against his erstwhile employers.
Holdsworth, Hull’s close-season recruit from Salford, added the conversion and his influence on proceedings quickly grew.
The Bulls struggled badly to get a foothold on proceedings in the opening exchanges and almost conceded a second.
Centre Ben Crooks broke clear and Crookes’ support play looked to have been timed to perfection but he knocked on from his namesake’s inside pass and the opportunity was spurned.
Hull continued to probe and two crafty grubber kicks from Holdsworth forced the Bulls to drop out under their own posts in quick succession.
In the 11th minute, Westerman’s pass invited Crookes to scamper over in the right corner again but a combination of Foster and Platt put paid to his progress.
Platt was injured in the process and, after receiving treatment pitchside, he was replaced by Danny Addy.
That meant Foster took Platt’s place on the left wing, with Kearney dropping to full back and Addy partnering Jarrod Sammut in the halves.
Slowly but surely, the Bulls began to get a foothold on the game with Manase Manuokafoa leading by example up front.
Behind Bradford’s pack was the lively Jarrod Sammut, looking to build on his demolition job against Wakefield, but genuine try-scoring opportunities were few.
During a spell of four successive sets, the Bulls twice forced Hull to drop out in quick succession and they enjoyed plenty of decent possession close to the home side’s line.
Sadly, Hull held out and hit Cummins’ men with a vicious sucker-punch in the 24th minute, with Crookes again at the heart of it.
He collected possession inside the right channel and opted to kick infield, with McDonnell fortuitously taking the bouncing ball and grounding it despite suspicions of offside.
Holdsworth added the extras to put the Bulls 12-0 behind and facing a mountainous task.
They continued to enjoy decent spells of pressure but Keith Lulia could not finish off his own fine work in the left corner and then Adam Sidlow knocked on with the line begging.
Hull claimed their third try five minutes after the break when Briscoe finished off in the left corner after the hosts ran a penalty following good work from replacement hooker Aaron Heremaia.
Hull’s fourth try arrived when the elusive McDonnell broke from full back and showed intelligence to send the supporting Holdsworth scampering clear to cross just left of the posts.
He converted but Bradford came back strongly again, with Blythe having a try disallowed in the right corner after a forward pass from Elliot Kear in the build-up.
Moments later Sammut broke clear inside the left channel and found Lulia before the Bulls switched play and Kearney and Elliott Whitehead combined to send Blythe over in the right corner.
Foster kicked a superb touchline conversion, leaving the scores at 22-6 in Hull’s favour.
Game on or too little too late?
The latter, as it turned out, as Pitts soon burst onto a pass to give Hull their fifth try and Holdsworth converted before Kearney touched down from close range for a late consolation.