Betfred League One: Bradford Bulls 46 Whitehaven 0

AT HALF-TIME, Whitehaven, whose cash problems are well known within the game, were presented with a cheque for £859.20 by Dave Hicks, administrator and founder of the Bradford Bulls Supporters' Group.

But that was as good as it got for the Cumbrians as the hosts gave a good quality, albeit not flawless performance that banished the memory of how close they had come to defeat at the Recreation Ground earlier in the season.

The visitors did blow a couple of try chances in the second half, one of which was gilt edged, but in general the Bulls were in charge, although they will not have been happy with the penalty count in a game that became scrappier in the second half.

The Betfred League One leaders gave a debut to Jonny Pownall, their new signing from Toronto Wolfpack, off the bench, while, in a hint as to the disparity between the clubs, the Cumbrians gave opportunities to amateur duo Jordan Thompson, signed from Igglesund Cumberland ARL side Hensingham, and Jordan Herve, from National Conference League Premier Division club Kells, among their interchanges.

The visitors, who pushed the Bulls all the way only to lose the home match 27-21, were without Lewis Brown, who failed a late fitness test on a shoulder injury, while Dan Abram was rested and Dion Aiye was out with a bicep injury.

Smoke from two red flares blew across the pitch at kick-off, but they could not disguise how dominant the Bulls were in the first 40 minutes, and scrum half Jordan Lilley soon hoisted a bomb that bounced off the chest of Whitehaven full back Jordan Burns to put the hosts in prime attacking position.

The ball was switched left where centre Tuoyo Egodo was scragged to the ground.

The respite was only brief, however, as hooker Sam Hallas, looking hungry after some time off, went over after a show-and-go in the fifth minute.

Stand-off Dane Chisholm added the two points on an afternoon when most of his shots at goal could be categorised as easy.

Hallas was dictating a lot of the Bulls' possession in the first half, and Burns only just avoided being pinned behind his line, but won a penalty, although athleticism from Dalton Grant on the right wing meant that his kick to touch did not make it.

In the 11th minute, John Kear's men had their second try as Ethan Ryan went over on the left via slick hands, but the angle was just too difficult for Chishom to add the goal.

Egodo was exciting the crowd with some strong runs, and the Bulls had the happy knack of capitalising on Whitehaven errors.

The Cumbrians knocked on on halfway and Lilley, one of several Stanningley products within the Bulls ranks, went on a diagonal run to the line, Chisholm's goal making it 16 points in as many minutes with no threat to the home line yet.

It took Whitehaven almost 20 minutes to gain a foothold in the Bulls 20, and when they did they forced a goal-line drop-out, which came to nothing.

Two minutes later they forced another, but only after referee Tom Grant had pulled aside Steve Crossley and the Cumbrians' Marc Shackley for a chat.

Having just survived four successive sets, the hosts were relieved to win a penalty and, to help the players get some air in their lungs and to take them 18 points clear, Chisholm popped over the goal.

Grant was then surprised that he didn't win a verdict from referee Grant after catching a high ball and then seemingly having it knocked from his grasp, but that was forgotten when the Bulls got their fourth try of the half.

Stuart Howarth (Whitehaven) and Chisholm, for a head-injury assessment, both needed treatment in separate incidents before the Bulls' man of the match, full back Brandon Pickersgill, crossed the whitewash, Lilley adding a confident conversion with Chisholm off the field.

Two penalties brought no reward for the Cumbrians, whose possession was ended by a forward pass, and the half, which lasted 48 minutes of actual time, ticked many boxes for the home side.

Chisholm returned to the pitch at the start of the second half, much to the Bulls' relief, but the strong-running Egodo got no joy from whistleblower Grant as he sought another penalty ruling.

Most of the crowd of 2,818 on another warm afternoon were brought to their feet when Ryan made it 25 tries for the campaign in the league after beautiful link play from Matty Garside and Pickersgill, with Ryan opting for the Chris Ashton-type splashdown try celebration.

Chisholm's firmly struck conversion made the top tier of the South Bank hospitality suite as the margin was stretched to 30-0.

Then came a scrappy period of play, ended when Egodo almost went over before the leaders scored another choice try, with Lilley putting second-row forward Elliot Minchella over.

Whitehaven's player-coach Carl Forster seemed to be losing the plot with referee Grant and his touch judges, and the visitors then blew their best chance to score when dazzling footwork by scrum half Callum Phillips put a try on a plate for Chris Taylor, only for the centre to knock on.

Then, just to twist the knife, Minchella went over for his second try, with Chisholm again converting.

Debutant Pownall almost put Ryan over on the right before Whitehaven hooker James Tilley limped off to be replaced by Jordan Thompson.

Phillips again tested the Bulls' defensive footwork, and Taylor was denied a consolation score, but only at the cost of a penalty.

Scrum half Phillips then stabbed a kick through for second-row forward Jesse Joe Parker to score but the pack member was in front of the kicker.

However, there was still time for Ryan to bag his sixth hat-trick of the season when he regathered his delightfully subtle grubber down the left touchline, Chisholm missing the challenging touchline goal attempt.

Bradford Bulls' advantage over chief rivals York City was stretched to 122 with this victory, although York had that game in hand which they played yesterday.