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It’s a happy Easter on the pitch for Bradford Bulls
The chase is on as Elliott Whitehead gets a few yards head start after breaking from his own ten-metre line
Widnes Vikings 4 Bradford Bulls 38
Consummately professional, ruthlessly efficient and fairly easy victors, the Bulls are flatly refusing to allow the crisis engulfing the club to distract them from the task in hand.
They are expected to announce today that they have raised the first £500,000 that is needed in the ‘Quest for Survival’ campaign.
But with another £500,000 needed soon after, it remains to be seen what the Bulls’ next move will be.
On the pitch, at least, Mick Potter’s players can do no more.
Whether or not they will get paid this month remains to be seen, but once again you could not fault their professionalism.
Having beaten Leeds in such spirited fashion on Good Friday, yesterday’s thumping success continued the Bulls’ fine form and made for a thoroughly good Easter weekend.
They outclassed Widnes with something to spare, running in seven tries to leave their huge army of travelling supporters delighted.
From the moment Ben Jeffries finished off a sweeping move to open the scoring in the third minute, the Bulls seemed destined to prevail.
It is now four wins from five road trips this season. That is the kind of form that takes you into the play-offs at the end of the year.
Do not underestimate how comprehensive this victory was.
The Bulls were also missing 11 players due to injury and suspension.
Do not overlook that either.
There was a thunderous standing ovation at half-time and at the final whistle from the massed ranks of Bulls fans who made the trek across the M62.
There were outstanding performances all over the park, not least from fit-again prop Craig Kopczak, who marked his return from a five-game absence with a try on the stroke of half-time.
Kopczak was immense, a colossal presence in a Bradford pack who outmuscled their opposite numbers. Yet the Bulls were superior in every department as Adrian Purtell and Keith Lulia provided a cutting edge in the centres and Shaun Ainscough and Michael Platt were always a threat on the flanks.
Widnes chairman Steve O’Connor had followed his £10,000 pledge to the Bulls by donating 600 tickets for yesterday’s game.
The Bulls, who would normally receive 10 per cent commission on the sale of away tickets, will receive the whole face value.
O’Connor’s team were equally charitable on the pitch, but take nothing away from the Bulls. They attacked with sustained cohesion from the off.
The Bulls fizzed with energy and a clever kick from Jeffries almost put Brett Kearney in but the opening try arrived in the sixth minute.
Platt, who enjoyed a fine afternoon’s work, made a fine break inside the right channel and slipped a neat pass to Purtell.
The big centre continued the move with a short offload to Elliott Whitehead, who then showed intelligence to send the supporting Jeffries scampering clear.
Sammut kicked the conversion and the Bulls’ pack continued to punch holes in the Vikings.
A small knot of Widnes fans, clearly not as compassionate about the Bulls’ plight as their chairman, chanted ‘you’re getting wound up in the morning’ to the visiting contingent.
They were soon silenced.
Diskin and Kearney combined to find Olivier Elima, who was held just short, but moments later the Bulls switched the ball into the right corner where Purtell sent Platt over.
Sammut added the touchline conversion, much to the delight of the raucous away following.
Three minutes later, Ben Cross felled Jamie Langley with a high tackle, giving the Bulls another set of six deep in Widnes territory.
The pressure was relentless at times.
The Bulls spent the opening 20 minutes camped inside Widnes’ 20-metre line.
Platt went close again in the right corner and a floated kick from Jeffries narrowly failed to find Ainscough on the opposite flank.
Widnes did not get a sniff in the opening quarter but they scored with pretty much their only chance of note on the half hour when Scott Moore sent Rhys Hanbury over in the corner.
It did not matter. The Bulls remained in the ascendancy and were suitably rewarded in the 38th minute when Heath L’Estrange sent Kopczak over from point-blank range. Sammut added the extras and, at 18-4 up, the Bulls were cruising.
Three minutes after the restart, Kearney broke forward yet again and sent Purtell over in the right corner. Sammut failed to convert.
Four minutes later, Whitehead broke clear from his own ten-metre line. He got just past halfway before Danny Craven hauled him down.
Yet try number five arrived four minutes later when Patrick Ah Van spilt Sammut’s kick and Platt gratefully collected possession to touch down.
Sammut missed the conversion from the right side of the posts again but with 13 minutes remaining the Bulls grabbed their sixth try when Manuokafoa crashed over from close range following a quick penalty tap.
Ah Van looked increasingly uncertain and three minutes from time Lulia crossed the line to complete the rout and claim the try he deserved.
Danny Addy, who was forced to play stand-off after Sammut was withdrawn due to injury, kicked the goal.
The final whistle saw the Bulls players and supporters applaud one another. It felt like both parties had played their part in the victory.
“Loyal supporters” was the chant from the away end.
The players gestured to the Bulls fans with clenched-fist salutes, summing up the kind of unity which underpins the club.