Castleford Tigers 14 Bradford Bulls 20

BRADFORD Bulls gave a determined display, particularly in defence, as they claimed the scalp of Castleford Tigers in their Boxing Day friendly at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle yesterday.

Left winger Joe Brown bagged two of the Bulls' four tries, with the others coming from Sam Hallas and Rowan Milnes, who added two goals.

Tigers replied with tries by new signing Danny Richardson, Joe Summers and Jacob Doyle, with Calum Turner tagging on a goal.

The Bulls, in their first run-out of the season, gave debuts to new signings Greg Johnson (wing), Anthony England (prop), Adam Rooks (second row), who all started, and utility player Sam Barlow, who came off the bench.

Also hoping to make an impact from the interchange bench were newcomers Harry Shackleton and Sam Smith.

Tigers, who named an equally experimental line-up, fielded newcomers in winger Derrell Olpherts, scrum half Danny Richardson and their man of the match, prop Tyla Hepi, who were all involved from the off, and also included former Bulls winger James Clare.

A minute's silence was immaculately observed before the kick-off in memory of the former Tigers players who died in 2019, including Dennis Hartley and ex-Northern ace Ian Van Bellen.

On a dull and chilly morning, with the pitch looking in pristine condition, the hosts began by playing towards the Wheldon Road end.

Tigers began by kicking the ball dead, giving the visitors an early attacking opportunity, and Rooks was not far short of the line on the right by the first handover.

Brandon Pickersgill looked assured at full back for the Bulls but there were knock-ons by either side early doors before the neck board came out for Liam Kirk after he made an attempted tackle.

After a five-minute delay five minutes into the match, Kirk was carried off with what was later diagnosed as concussion and replaced by Thomas Doyle.

Tigers then forced a goal-line drop-out but could not cash in, with Olpherts being hauled to the floor a few metres short.

Steve Crossley was penalised for holding down, but, with Jordan Lilley leading the defensive line, the Bulls held out again.

The Tigers were probing via scrum half Richardson and forced a second goal-line drop-out, but a tip pass went into touch on their left as the Bulls moved up quickly in defence.

Eventually the dam burst, however, and, after Greg Eden had made the 20th-minute incursion, Richardson finished it off one play later but missed the conversion.

Tigers forced a third goal-line drop-out of the half but Lilley not only rescued the situation by diving on a grubber kick but then winning a penalty from referee Scott Mikalauskas as he tried to regain his feet.

Another penalty followed for the visitors but it was nullified by left winger Brown knocking on as he stooped to take a pass near the Cas 10-metre line.

The impressive Ebon Scurr then drew a penalty with an aggressive carry but Rooks spilled the ball when on a charge.

Brown was then impeded in taking a high ball, winning a penalty, and seconds later, in the 29th minute, he was over the line on the left, chasing Milnes' kick and hacking the ball on just ahead of a Cas defender before diving on it.

Milnes was also wayward with the conversion, leaving the score tied at 4-4, and the Bulls then had to drop out for the fourth time, but Olpherts could not stay infield as he caught a high pass.

A hooter sounded with two minutes still left on the clock, but with knock-ons each side there was no further scoring before the proper interval whistle, with the Bulls winning the penalties gained count by 6-3.

The Bulls introduced winger David Foggin-Johnston for the start of the second half, but it did not take Tigers long to regain the lead via second row Joe Summers after some sharp passing.

Stand-off Calum Turner popped over the goal to extend the hosts' lead to 10-4 but the Bulls then won their first goal-line drop-out, and Milnes soon made the Tigers pay with a show and go near to the line in the 52nd minute, with his goal levelling things up at 10-10.

Summers then pinched the ball in a dangerous situation but Cas could not take advantage, and seconds later the players were warming themselves up with a first melee of the season, leading to yellow cards for Sam Hall (Tigers) and Barlow (Bulls).

Turner, albeit with the aid of a juggle, was then held up over the Bulls line, but the reprieve did not last long as a Sam Hallas knock on gave Cas possession deep in the Bulls 22 and Jacob Doyle scored on the right just past the hour.

Turner missed the conversion but the visitors soon responded, a long Pickersgill pass putting Brown in for his second try in the 65th minute to make it 14-14.

Shackleton then replaced Lilley, and England was held up after a good leg drive, with Hallas similarly being denied seconds later.

Turner clutched Milnes' kick towards the Tigers posts to defuse another attack, but Ross Oakes had to be denied at pace as the Bulls continued their good spell.

Bulls' man-of-the-match contender Pickersgill then did well to smother a kick through near the Bulls dead-ball line as the match became tit for tat, and the Bulls then forced a second goal-line drop-out and made it count when Hallas typically sneaked over from close range with five minutes left.

Milnes' simple conversion made it 20-14 to the Championship club, and they were soon on the offensive again, forcing another goal-line drop-out.

Keelan Foster almost made it a fifth try for the Bulls but lost the ball forward in stretching out for the line, and a home knock-on took the pressure off in the dying minutes as the Bulls notched an encouraging victory.

TIGERS: Eden; Olpherts, Mata'utia, Graham, Clare; Turner, Richardson; Hepi, O'Neill, Millington, Sene-Lefao, Summers, Smith. Interchange: Gregory, Donnelly, Schofield, Hall, Robb, Martin, Peachey, Fella, J Doyle, Attley, Storey.

BULLS: Pickersgill; Johnson, Evans, Oakes, Brown; Milnes, Lilley; England, Hallas, Crossley, Rooks, Gallagher, Kirk. Interchange: Shackleton, Foggin-Johnston, T Doyle, Foster, Scurr, Smith, Barlow.

Referee: Scott Mikalauskus

Attendance: 3,306