Bradford Bulls 54 London Skolars 16

ETHAN Ryan gave a four-star performance to provide a timely reminder of what a coup it was for the Bulls to keep hold of their highly-rated homegrown star during the off-season.

The birthday boy celebrated turning 22 on Saturday by stealing the show with a man of the match performance as Bulls breezed past London Skolars.

John Kear may not have been impressed by some sloppy defending which saw the minnows from the capital become only the second side to put three tries on Bulls in the league this season, the other one being fellow pace-setters York City Knights.

But he was certainly impressed by Ryan’s work as the academy product scored four tries with no shortage of quality.

The winger had already claimed an assist for the opening try as his break down the left set up Brandon Pickersgill to get Bulls up and running just inside the ten-minute mark.

Dane Chisholm failed to convert on a strangely contrasting afternoon for the Aussie compared with a week earlier. Chisholm’s 20 conversions from 21 tries in the three-figure rout over West Wales Raiders had landed him new goal-kicking and points-scoring club records.

Yet the half-back, on kicking duties again in the absence of the injured Joe Keyes, had serious difficulties in finding his radar as only five of the 11 tries were converted against Skolars.

However, Chisholm did provide the kick for Ryan’s opening salvo as the winger leapt like a salmon above his opponent to touch down and make it 8-0.

But it was his second try which provided another example of why Leigh Centurions were leading the chase for him last season, only for Ryan to stay loyal to his home-town club and sign a new contract extension.

A neat offload from Matty Garside saw Lee Smith farm the ball out to the wideman on the left. And just like you see in Super League or the NRL, air-borne Ryan acrobatically jumped across the whitewash and planted the ball down when it looked like the angle was too tight.

No wonder he has been nicknamed ‘Superman’. It was a clinical finish and it led to an impromptu chorus of ‘happy birthday’ from the terraces.

Dalton Grant was next on the scoresheet as he benefited from a mix-up involving Elliot Hall and Ryan Burroughs who between them made a mess of a kick from Rowan Milnes. Young half-back Milnes didn’t let anyone down on his debut for Bulls.

Chisholm broke his duck with his first conversion attempt from the righthand side before London opened their account after a good handling move saw Burroughs go over in the left corner.

Ross Peltier reasserted Bulls’ authority when the big prop latched on to a pass from Chisholm to touch down, the Aussie’s conversion attempt just making it with the help of a post.

Smith completed a satisfactory half for the hosts with a jinking run to the line to make it 28-4 at half-time.

If Ryan’s acrobatics were the highlight of the first half then his pace and guile for his hat-trick provided the standout moment of the second period.

Before that, Elliot Minchella found himself on the end of some rough treatment from the visitors which saw Rob Butler yellow-carded as a result.

It was a sign of things to come as Skolars became heavy-handed at times, leading to criticism from Kear afterwards who was angry that a number of “tip-tackles” had not been sufficiently punished.

Ashley Gibson extended Bulls lead with some swift footwork taking him over the line before Ryan clinched his triple with a burst of speed followed by a deft dummy in a solo run to the whitewash.

That might have been the cue for the Odsal men to go for the jugular and boost their points difference which already gave them the edge over nearest rivals York.

They did add further tries but became loose at the other end and left coach Kear with a bitter taste in his mouth after the game.

Eddie Mbaraga went over for Skolars and Neil Thorman converted.

Kear’s mood did not improve when Sam Hallas was on the end of some heavy treatment without cost.

Grant touched down for his second after winning a high ball before Chisholm’s kick was plucked out of the air with aplomb by Ryan for his fourth score which had plenty of similarity to his first try.

Chisholm’s conversion attempt hit the upright and went the wrong side of the post as his erratic afternoon with the boot continued.

Then slack play at the other end allowed Skolars to run in a third try. Phil Lyon claimed the points to provide reward for Skolars, who proved they are at least a notch up from whipping boys West Wales.

Callum Bustin had the last word for Bulls by barging over for the final try to cap another eye-catching display by the Castleford loanee.

So another side were dispatched by the leaders, though Kear was rightly in no mood to get carried away after what was a largely subdued afternoon despite another half-century for Bulls.

He knows much stiffer tasks are ahead, starting with the trip to Newcastle Thunder on Friday for the curtain raiser to Magic Weekend.

He said: “We need to be harder on ourselves and not say, ‘we’ve scored 50 points and won the game’. Yes, we have but I don’t think we have played as well as we should have played and we can play, so that will be reflected in my review on Monday and then going forward to Friday.”

His praise was reserved for Bulls’ four-try star as he said: “Ethan Ryan was selected as the man of the match and I thought he was the best player.

“Some of his finishes were exceptional and I thought he was dangerous in broken field as well so he has had a good 22nd birthday.”