Dewsbury Rams 10 Bradford Bulls 34

BULLS kept their thin play-off hopes alive with victory at their soon-to-be new landlords Dewsbury.

Six tries from six different scorers ensured Bradford remain in the top five mix with two games to go.

The fixture list had thrown up an ironic twist of fate that saw Bulls visiting their new temporary home for the next two seasons less than three days after the announcement they would be leaving Odsal.

That is assuming the Rugby Football League formally approve the switch, which they were quick to state they had yet to do as the shock news reverberated across the domestic game late on Thursday night.

Bulls chairman Andrew Chalmers was determined to stick to his deadline and less than 24 hours later, season tickets had gone on sale for the Tetley’s Stadium – under the bold tag line ‘Destination Super League’.

This victory, coupled with a defeat for Featherstone at York, means technically the dream of a return to the top flight is still alive but of course, it remains a huge long shot.

John Kear’s side now need to win their last two matches – an emotion-fuelled final game at Odsal against Sheffield and a trip to doomed Rochdale – while at the same time hoping Featherstone lose at Batley and at home to Toulouse.

And then they would face the toughest route through the play-offs, playing all their matches away.

Much more realistic is the prospect of another shot at promotion next year or the one after, when Bulls won’t have the astronomic costs of maintaining Odsal on top of their rent.

The club claim they will save around £400,000 per year and that this should ultimately free up more resources to succeed on the pitch.

Whether enough fans back the move remains to be seen, though early season ticket sales are thought to have been encouraging.

While it will be a massive emotional wrench to leave their spiritual home, there is an acceptance among some fans that the club can’t go on pouring money into a black hole to keep Odsal going.

But equally the idea of leaving Bradford – even on a temporary basis – is simply a ‘no-no’ for some.

Yesterday, the trip of just over 10 miles down the road was still for an away fixture and as usual the Bulls fans were out in force.

The kick-off was preceded by a minute’s silence following the death of 20-year-old Archie Bruce, who was tragically found dead in his hotel room yesterday morning having made his debut for Dewsbury’s local rivals Batley the night before in Toulouse.

It took until the 18th minute for the deadlock to be broken after both sides had threatened in the early stages.

Joe Keyes and Jy Hitchcox had gone close for Bulls while Dale Morton dropped the ball with the line beckoning at the other end.

It was captain Steve Crossley who opened the scoring in his 101st appearance for the Bulls, barging his way over after swift work from Matty Wildie out of dummy half.

Wildie was over himself soon afterwards after Bulls turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

A Jordan Lilley error meant a goal drop lineout but Bulls held out and were catapulted down field by some quick thinking from Hitchcox, who was celebrating his 30th birthday.

Pickersgill took the play on before Wildie seized the opportunity, spinning out of a tackle to cross the whitewash.

Despite being against the wind, Bulls increased their dominance with a third try. After a sixth penalty was conceded by a Rams team guilty of indiscipline, Bradford opted to run the ball rather than go for the kick and it paid dividends.

Ross Peltier had only just come on for James Green and made an immediate impact, barging his way through two defenders to latch on to Lilley’s pass.

At 18-0 down, Rams’ task turned even tougher when Paul Sykes – who has had two spells with Bulls - was given a yellow card for dissent by referee Jack Smith.

Only minutes earlier, Sykes had spurned a good opportunity when a try looked on for the hosts down their left but the skipper threw a pass straight to Wildie.

The Bradford hooker had his own loose moment with a wild pass out to his left which was not capitalised on by the hosts as they went in at the break yet to score and Bulls sitting pretty at 18-0 up.

Things got even better for John Kear’s troops with perhaps their best try of the game early in the second half.

Now with the wind behind them, Bulls were soon on the offensive. Excellent play from full back Pickersgill saw him break the line before offloading to Elliot Minchella, who sidestepped the last man to claim his ninth try of the season.

With points difference potentially still important in the play-off shake-up, Bulls looked to hammer home their advantage but Rams opened their account down the other end.

Sykes – now back on the field after his earlier misdemeanour – produced some good work to set up former Bull Liam Johnson to touch down in the right hand corner.

But if Rams thought this could spark a comeback, their hopes were dented by a red card for Michael Knowles following a late hit on Lilley.

Hitchcox also received a yellow card for his reaction after a melee broke out following the foul.

Bulls regained the upper hand as good work from Keyes set up Pickersgill for another fine try which rivalled Minchella’s.

After his standout show at Barrow the week before, this was another fine display from the full back and he capped it with a score after pirouetting between the Rams defence to cross the line.

Keyes just missed the conversion attempt but Ross Oakes went over soon afterwards after some smart work out of dummy half.

Keyes added the extras this time before Rams went down to 11 men following a yellow card to Owen Trout for holding a Bulls player back off the ball.

Connor Farrell thought he had joined in on the try-scoring only for his touchdown to be ruled out for obstruction.

The match became scrappy as Bulls were unable to make their numerical advantage count in the closing stages.

Instead it was Dewsbury who had the final score when a needless offload saw Morton break from inside his own half and charge towards the Bulls line. He was caught by a fine tackle from Hitchcox but former Keighley Cougars player Adam Ryder crossed the whitewash on the next tackle.

Finn missed the conversion before the hooter sounded on a very satisfactory afternoon’s work for Bulls.

Now they can get ready for an emotional finale at Odsal in two weeks’ time with their season still just about alive.