A BRIGHT start quickly gave way to another disjointed performance from Bulls yesterday afternoon, with John Kear’s side stumbling to a 22-18 home win over Keighley Cougars in the Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy.

Bradford roared into a 12-0 lead after only eight minutes, with the imperious Danny Brough leading the way.

But Cougars were level by the break, and despite further scores from Ross Oakes and Anthony Walker, a late Charlie Graham try almost led to a famous away win.

Bulls scored a fifth minute try after some sustained pressure, which began with a superb 40-20 from Brough.

That led to Bradford being camped on the Cougars line, with hooker Tom Doyle eventually forcing his way over.

Brough knocked the conversion over with ease to make it 6-0, before grabbing a try of his own moments later.

Brandon Pickersgill flicked the ball to Oakes, and though he couldn’t quite crash through, the ball went right to Brough, who performed a lovely pirouette to get free and dive over the line, before converting himself.

Oakes almost made it over after some neat footwork following yet another 40-20 from Brough, and Bulls should definitely have scored when Pickersgill found the spare man in Reece Hamlett.

The youngster touched down in the corner, but Pickersgill’s pass was forward and the chance was wasted.

Dan Fleming nearly crossed after Bulls made great gains, but he lost it just short of the line, rounding off a quietly impressive first 25 minutes for the hosts.

But Cougars roared back to dominate the rest of the half.

First, a superb kick through by full-back Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e was grounded by Jason Muranka, but the try was ruled out for offside.

Keighley bounced back immediately, with Graham intercepting on halfway and breaking down the left.

He evaded a late dive from Joe Brown to go over, with Jack Miller converting to halve the deficit.

Cougars got another try soon after. A high kick by Billy Gaylor got held up in the wind, and Jack Arnold beat Pickersgill to it in the air.

He drove towards the line, and just when it looked as if he had held on for too long, he flicked the ball out of the back of the hand to the onrushing Gaylor for a score.

Miller converted a simple one from in front of the posts to level matters at 12-12.

Both sides had a couple of half-chances before the interval, with Pickersgill involved at either end, while there was a silly scrap involving Bulls winger Elliot Wallis.

Bradford came out with a point to prove after the break and made a fine start.

After Cougars defended superbly on their own line, they eventually caved, with Pickersgill finding Oakes about 10 metres out, who broke through into space to go over on the left.

Brough failed to knock over the testing conversion, but Bulls had another chance to increase their lead 15 minutes into the second half.

David Foggin-Johnston crossed to score out on the left wing, following fine work by Doyle, but he had just put his foot in touch so the try was chalked off.

But that missed opportunity soon paled into insignificance.

Former Bulls youngster and Cougars new boy Alix Stephenson was down in agony after a tackle in the build up to that disallowed try.

The oxygen and stretcher came on, as his afternoon ended prematurely with a broken fibula.

After a long delay, Bulls scored next, and it was a lovely try for trialist Walker.

Doyle rampaged forward, before the ball found its way to Brough. He then fed Walker, who spun neatly to go in under the posts, with young Billy Jowitt converting.

There was a historic moment with 20 minutes to go, as Laulu-Togaga’e’s 17-year-old son Phoenix came on to play alongside him, and the pair were part of a Keighley side still posing a real threat.

Kyle Kesik was tackled inches short and Zach Braham was held up over the line, but then the elder Laulu-Togaga’e found Graham in a pocket of space a few yards out, who charged through for his second try.

Alfie Seeley’s kick made it 22-18, but there were no real further alarms for Bulls, who held on to close out an unconvincing win.

With Featherstone romping to big victories over Oldham and Batley in pre-season, Kear’s side will need to step things up to have any chance of winning next week’s Challenge Cup tie.