Wakefield Trinity 17-14 Bradford Bulls

REUNIONS often occur in rugby league with players and coaches returning to former clubs, and teams meeting each other regularly due to the small size of the English league system.

However, the two involved with Bulls’ trip to Super League side Wakefield Trinity inspire completely different sentiments.

Let’s start with the one associated with Bradford boss, John Kear. The veteran head coach received a warm welcome as he returned to Belle Vue, where he spent five successful years from 2006.

However, the other does not possess the same positive feeling for one of the parties involved.

October 3, 2015 will forever be a day to forget for Bulls fans as they will remember it as the time when their club’s downward spiral to almost extinction began.

It was that disastrous Million Pound game where Wakefield prevailed 24-16 to sentence Bradford to another season in the Championship which eventually led to a brief spell in the depths of League One.

Fast forward almost five years later and the stakes were different this time round. A place in the Coral Challenge Cup sixth round was up for grabs for the former sparring partners as they battled it out in a hotly contested fright night affair. Bulls were out for revenge.

To reach the fifth round Kear’s men unconvincingly beat amateur side Underbank Rangers at the Tetley’s Stadium, while Trinity made their first appearance in this year’s competition after making it to the quarter-final stage in 2019.

Since the Underbank win, Bradford have looked good in league action collecting wins against Oldham and Sheffield Eagles after losing their two opening fixtures to London Broncos and Featherstone Rovers.

RFL Chairman Ralph Rimmer had declared earlier in the day that because there have been no confirmed coronavirus cases reported by any rugby league clubs, fixtures would remain in place this weekend. This came after the Premier League and EFL had announced that no football would be played until at least April 3.

Back to matters on the field, Bulls started the quickest with Steve Crossley making a powerful run gaining a great number of yards. However, on the following phase Matty Dawson-Jones knocked on directly on the touchline.

If it was not for a late last-ditch tackle from Alex Walker just short of the line, Lilley would have put his team in the lead. Many thought it was a high tackle, referee Marcus Griffiths disagreed.

The scrum half would not be denied though as a few minutes later, he scored his third try of the season with a fantastic run through the heart of the Trinity defence to touch down under the sticks.

Wakefield responded in even greater fashion after remarkable hand skill from Joe Westerman saved a destined knock on. The loose forward managed to breeze past the visiting defence in the process.

The home team were beginning to look dangerous when they came forward and Jacob Miller’s drop goal ensured they went into the break with a one-point lead.

Bradford began the second period like they did the first, by taking the lead. Rowan Milnes kicked for two after Lilley won the penalty.

The Bulls kicker then followed that up by skipping his way over the line after good build-up play, Milnes converting too which allowed the Bulls fans to dream. Could they pull off another Super shock in the sport’s most prestigious knockout competition?

Trinity brought it back once again when Alex Walker crossed the line; the favourites were starting to turn the screw.

This showed when Reece Lyne went over after a good one-two between the centre and Tom Johnstone. Danny Brough hit the post to set up a nervy final 10 minutes.

Wakefield held on though to down a spirited Bradford - plenty of positives for Kear to take from his return to his old stomping ground.

WAKEFIELD: Alex Walker, Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne, Ryan Atkins, Tom Johnston, Jacob Miller, Danny Brough, Tinirau Arona, Kyle Wood, Kelepi Tanginoa, Jay Pitts, Matty Ashurst, Joe Westerman. Replacements- David Fifita, Chris Green, George King, Josh Wood

BULLS: Brandon Pickersgill, David Foggin-Johnston, Matty Dawson-Jones, Ross Oakes, Joe Brown, Rowan Milnes, Jordan Lilley, Anthony England, George Flanagan, Steve Crossley, Adam Rooks, Bradley Gallagher, Sam Hallas. Replacements- Thomas Doyle, Ebon Scurr, Evan Hodgson, Levy Nzoungou

REFEREE: Marcus Griffiths

BULLS MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Jordan Lilley- It really was a subline try by Bradford’s number seven as he put in a relentless night shift.