Bradford Bulls 40, Castleford Tigers 18: Bradford Bulls' assistant coach Darrel Shelford had mixed feelings after the champions and leaders celebrated two years of Super League invincibility in home games with a seven-try victory over the depleted Tigers last night.

This was the Bulls' 27th successive home win in Super League since they lost 28-26 to Leeds Rhinos at Odsal in July, 2000.

The success was convincing in the end, but for long spells in the first half the World Club champions struggled to find their touch.

"It was a good performance on the whole, but there is still plenty of work to do," admitted the New Zealander.

"We had a very good spell after half-time where the guys perked up and played the sort of rugby we thought we should have been playing from the start.

"But Castleford are a dogged side, they kept going right to the end, and will roll a few teams over this season.

"We have to understand that sides are going to do that against us."

Shelford added: "We let in a few soft tries, but the final scoreline was no indication of our dominance.

"However, as preparation for next Friday's game against Leeds it was most definitely good.

"It helped us get things in perspective and now we are looking forward to the Rhinos."

Castleford were without half a dozen regulars, notably forward trio Dean Sampson and Michael Smith - who were both suspended - and Nathan Sykes.

Graham Steadman's squad included five youngsters. Prop David Bates, who had made just one senior appearance previously this year, and young hooker Wayne Godwin stepped up from the Tigers' Academy side along with promising winger Tommy Saxton, who made his senior debut as a late substitute at St Helens last month.

Saxton started, and joining Bates and Godwin on the bench were highly promising teenagers Adam Thaler (half-back) and Richard Blakeway (loose forward). The latter duo came on for the last four minutes.

Despite being under-strength, however, the Tigers, lived up to their nickname defensively for long spells in the first period as they battled hard to keep alive their outside chance of finishing in the top six for a play-off


The Bulls could only manage two tries in the opening 40 minutes by full back Michael Withers and hooker James Lowes, one of which followed a disputed forward pass.

The game slipped away from Castleford completely, however, soon after the restart as the Bulls grabbed three tries in a five-minute spell to stretch their lead to a commanding 30-0.

Leading try-scorer Tevita Vaikona sparked the scoring burst with a powerful effort from 30 metres, then centre Lee Gilmour raced in from near halfway after a break by second-rower Daniel Gartner, soon to be followed by winger Lesley Vainikolo after good work by Deacon.

With Deacon converting all three, including one from the touchline, the Bulls had the game in the bag, but Castleford battled on.

Their much-weakened pack struggled to cope with the power of the home six, but there was sterling work from Ryan Hudson, Andy Lynch and Lee Harland.

After 59 minutes, the Bulls' Brian McDermott was placed on report by referee Richard Silverwood after a tackle on Adrian Rainey, and from the resulting penalty winger Waine Pryce squeezed in at the corner to open their account.

The Bulls hit back immediately with further tries from centre Scott Naylor and McDermott, but Castleford found consolation for their persistence with late tries by Rainey and Godwin, both converted by hooker Wayne Bartrim.

Bulls scrum half Paul Deacon kicked six goals from seven attempts, and in the process became the first player to reach the century mark in Super League matches this season.