Betfred League One: Hunslet 16 Bradford Bulls 36

BRADFORD Bulls, inspired by former Hunslet player George Flanagan and backed up by wholehearted stints down the middle by such as prop Steve Crossley, made it 12 successive league wins for the first time in 21 years.

Hunslet, backed by Bulls coach John Kear to make the play-offs, certainly tested the visitors but then shot themselves in the foot with an elementary error, putting a kick-off dead just when they could have put pressure on the leaders.

The Belle Isle (railway) side of ground was opened up, probably for the first time ever (the stadium was opened in 1995), with some 70 spectators either sitting on the grass bank or leaning on the barriers on the athletics track to get closer to the action.

The Bulls, who were playing towards the Middleton Woods end of the ground, made good yardage after a Dane Chisholm runaround but Hunslet replied in kind.

However, the Bulls scored a 'try' in their next attack as Sam Hallas broke to put Gregg McNally over in the fourth minute but the score was ruled out by referee Michael Smaill because the scoring pass was adjudged forward.

Hunslet did score in the following attack, however, as full back Jimmy Watson came up in support on the outside to put former Cougars winger Gavin Duffy over in the fifth minute, with stand-off Joe Sanderson converting superbly from the left-hand touchline. 

Chisholm's kick to the left-hand corner was then unable to be palmed back into play by Ethan Ryan, and the Australian's next attempt sailed well over Ryan's head as the right-hand side of the Bulls' attack looked frustrated that the ball hadn't come to them.

Hunslet again made good ground in attack but the visitors were the next to score.

Half-back Joe Keyes' kick to the right was collected by Dalton Grant, who was making his 150th career appearance, and the winger threw it inside for centre Ashley Gibson to go over in the 16th minute.

Chisholm's kick skewed across the front of the posts, and he did likewise three minutes later, again from close to the right-hand touchline, when Gibson crossed again, this time after hooker Sam Hallas was initially pushed back on the left and Chisholm was denied in the middle following a show and go.

Hunslet blew a great chance in the 21st minute when Jack Lee passed inside to former Bull Cain Southernwood, who knocked on at full stretch in a breakaway attack.

James Laithwaite injured a leg in the build up and was later taken to hospital in Warrington by his wife, with the Bulls awaiting news of a scan on a player who has twice broken a leg.

New signing James Green replaced him in the 22nd minute, and Hunslet soon won their first penalty for an off-the-ball incident, with Sanderson popping the ball over from 30 metres to tie the scores at 8-8 after 27 minutes.

Flanagan then came on to a good-natured reception, but Sanderson again made the visitors pay for an indiscretion on the half-hour, landing a kick at goal after Crossley was penalised for pushing Jack Coventry off the ball.

Ryan's interception then put the Bulls on the front foot and the visitors won a penalty for holding down, with Chisholm smacking the ball between the sticks to tie the scores again in the 33rd minute.

Hunslet almost profited from an impromptu Sanderson kick, which was caught by centre Mufaro Mvududu, and Southernwood's kick bounced back towards the Hunslet line and almost brought reward, only for referee Smail, in charge of his first game at this level, to blow up.

Chisholm's kick forced the game's first goal-line drop-out, and a high tackle on Crossley gave the former the chance to put the Bulls ahead before half-time, which he took.

Crossley went over for the Bulls three minutes into the second half to extend their advantage from Flanagan's pass, and Chisholm's easy conversion put the visitors eight points ahead.

Hunslet then enjoyed their best spell of the match, with their man of the match Lewis Reed being held up, and Southernwood then being taken out after kicking the ball on the last tackle.

Former Bull Duane Straugheir then went over from Danny Halmshaw's pass, and Sanderson's goal put the hosts only 18-16 behind after 56 minutes.

The Bulls responded, in style, however, when Crossley passed out of the tackle and Keyes took a sharp pass high above his head at pace to dance his way over, with Chisholm converting from in front to restore their eight-point margin. 

However, just when they had the chance to put pressure back on the Bulls, Hunslet then kicked out on the full, and the sparky Flanagan made then pay on the hour by threatening to go left and darting right in typical fashion to force his way over for what turned out to be the game-breaking try on his return from the broken hand that he suffered at Hemel Stags.

Chisholm tagged on the extra two and, although the hosts played expansively in trying to break the Bulls down, with

Mvududu going close in the 70th minute and Lee almost going over soon after, the visitors had the last laugh.

Flanagan showed immense strength and determination to score by the posts, taking three or four defenders with him. and Chisholm kicked an easy goal to stretch the final margin to 20 points on yet another broiling afternoon.