Bradford Bulls 18 Workington 24

BULLS legend Leon Pryce had already masterminded one victory over his old side earlier this season - and Workington Town completed the double at Odsal yesterday to leave the hosts’ title hopes out of their hands.

Pryce was a key figure in Bulls’ three Super League crowns and two Challenge Cup wins between 1998 and 2005.

Having made a brief return to Odsal last season, he retired from playing in May 2017, and joined Workington as head coach five months later.

His side sat third going into this contest, having won 15 of their 21 Betfred League One games, including a stunning 17-16 triumph at home to Bulls in April.

And there was a shock repeat yesterday afternoon, as John Kear’s men fell to a 24-18 defeat at the hands of the experienced Cumbrians, blowing a six-point lead late in the second half.

With York winning 48-6 against Hunslet, Bulls no longer hold top spot in League One and now need Knights to slip up with four games to go if they are to achieve promotion automatically rather than having to do it via the play-offs.

The game was played in an intense atmosphere, on and off the pitch, and after some early handbags, Ben Morris scythed easily through the Bulls backline, popping the ball up to full back Sam Forrester to go in under the posts.

Carl Forber converted to put the visitors 6-0 in front but after forcing a couple of penalties near the posts, Bulls hit back through a fine Elliot Minchella effort.

Steve Crossley was tackled close in, but the ball was worked back to Minchella, who performed a brilliant falling spin to evade tackles and crash over the line.

The Cumbrians retained their narrow lead though, as Dane Chisholm scuffed a terrible kick wide of the posts.

He soon made amends. Workington’s Jamie Doran gave the ball away five metres out and the Bulls stand-off intercepted before running the length of the pitch to touch down.

Jordan Lilley took over kicking duties and he converted with ease.

Workington soon went close to retaking the lead. Sean Penkywicz almost burrowed his way over but was held up on the line before winger Joe Hambley mishandled a poor pass with the line at his mercy.

However, following James Newton’s brilliant 40-20 kick to touch, the ball was worked right to the prolific Elliott Miller who held off the tackler to score his 14th league try of the season.

Forber’s kick flew through the posts to put the away side 12-10 ahead, and after Chisholm just failed to find Ethan Ryan with a high kick, the referee blew for half-time to leave Bulls in a tricky situation.

Early in the second half, Chisholm sent a spiralling kick into the Workington 22 and Forrester dropped it under little pressure to hand Bulls a great early chance.

They pressed and pressed, with Ross Oakes winning a penalty, but they failed to make the breakthrough and Workington regained possession.

Some neat play from the visitors ensued and Forrester crossed the line. The final pass was forward though, leaving Bulls to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Minutes after that scare, the hosts regained the lead after replacement Jonny Pownall embarked on a great jinking run to earn them good territory.

The ball came to Garside on the fifth tackle and he risked going for the try. Somehow, despite the attention of several opposition players, he reached out and grounded the ball in the left corner.

Lilley missed his conversion though, meaning the Bulls only held a nervy two-point advantage.

Bulls looked to be getting into a groove at this point but the game, which had been threatening to boil over, turned extremely fractious.

Dalton Grant was unceremoniously dumped to the ground before being shoved away by a knee in the back.

Tuoyo Egodo took umbrage to that and piled in as tempers flared.

Egodo went in aggressively again minutes later, this time in the Workington half, and a mini-brawl erupted again.

Minchella then embarked on a positive run before being laid out by a high tackle.

Referee John McMullen handed Bulls a vital penalty as a result and Lilley slotted home to put them ahead 16-12.

Then, Chisholm broke and set Pickersgill away. He was brought down illegally 10 metres out for another penalty. Lilley’s score meant Bulls had established a crucial six-point advantage.

The turning point came in bizarre circumstances. The referee was hit by a dangerous Workington grubber kick on the fifth tackle and had to award them the scrum for a fresh set.

The visitors worked the ball to the inside left and Doran crashed over, before Forber levelled with another perfect kick.

Workington were then handed a penalty but the lethal Forber kicked for touch instead of goal. They lost the ball forward and the chance had gone.

With ten minutes remaining, a poor Workington tackle by Penkywicz on George Flanagan saw the referee award a penalty on halfway.

Another flare-up ensued, and with the crowd baying for Penkywicz to be sent to the sin-bin, Flanagan and Workington’s Stevie Scholey were instead yellow-carded for their part in the aftermath.

After the chaos, Joe Keyes lined up the kick from halfway which would have given the hosts the lead back but it drifted just wide.

Grant then almost got in from Egodo’s pass but the ball was ruled forward, and instead it was Workington who made the decisive score.

Bulls lost the ball in the tackle and Workington played the resulting set well. They eventually found Penkywicz, who evaded some tired defending to crash over. Forber nailed the kick yet again.

Doran attempted to seal things with the drop goal but missed from in front of the posts, giving Bulls one last chance to at least snatch a point.

Chisholm tried a cute low kick towards the right but Workington winger Tylar Mellor made a vital interception under pressure from several Bulls to seal a shock away victory.

Bulls have been at the summit for so long this year, but this potentially season-defining result saw them drop to second and left their title hopes in serious doubt.