Bulls 12 Sheffield 6

THE master put the apprentice in his place as two late Bulls tries settled a defensive duel at Odsal yesterday.

Scorelines are immaterial at this stage – it is all about practice making perfect for the raising of the League One curtain at York on February 18.

But given the fiercely competitive edge of John Kear, he would still have enjoyed his side putting one over that of Mark Aston. So did the 1,428 hardy souls who braved the cold to witness a second pre-season success.

Two tries in as many minutes from the hosts ensured the coach who masterminded Sheffield's Challenge Cup triumph two decades ago enjoyed the bragging rights on the Wembley star man from that day.

Sheffield were making their first outing since losing the Championship Shield final to Toulouse in September.

It was hardly a temperature to rival the south of France but the playing conditions were far better than the Bulls had faced against Halifax on Boxing Day.

Kear had hoped to see a more expansive game plan from his side with the extra work under their belts since and get more minutes in the legs.

Yet he still named a large squad and there was a real disparity between the two benches – the Bulls had eight on the interchange and Sheffield just three trialists.

The Eagles are looking to supplement numbers through their dual-registration deal with St Helens. James Bentley has already been mentioned as a possible recruit if he is not thrown straight in at Saints.

There were familiar faces on both sides. While Elliot Minchella, Matt Garside and Liam Johnson lined up against their old club in Bulls colours, Oscar Thomas, Iliess Macani and Jon Magrin made a quick return to Odsal after leaving at the end of last season.

But it was a strong visiting side as Kear had predicted – and a good step-up in class with the League One opener at Bootham Crescent under five weeks away now.

Reiss Butterworth was one of the youngsters to catch the new coach's eye and the hooker made a good impression when he forced Magrin to knock-on in front of the line.

Matt James was also stopped just short as the defence that Kear has worked on showed its mettle.

Josh Rickett, starting on the left wing, was a whisker away from breaking the stalemate and Brandon Pickersgill was carried into touch near the corner.

Thomas, playing in a half-back role where he was rarely used by the Bulls, created pressure with a monster kick. But more solid goalline defending denied two full sets and the Championship side came away empty.

It had a typical pre-season friendly air, with handling errors on both sides. But Ross Peltier brought the crowd to life with an electric 30-metre burst into Sheffield territory, something few would have anticipated from the big forward.

But as half-time approached, nobody was still able to find an opening score. Frenchman Max Garcia took Sheffield close and Magrin looked like he had finished off, only to spill the ball as he stretched to cross following a meaty hit by Jamel Goodall.

It needed a mistake to end the stalemate – and unfortunately a loose pass from Bulls skipper Lee Smith was swept up by Thomas, who raced through unchallenged from halfway. He tapped on the extras to give Sheffield a 6-0 lead at the break.

Alex Brown got his first run-out in a Bulls jersey after the resumption as he came on for Rickett.

The Bulls thought they were on the board within five minutes after Ryan Miller spilled Smith's high kick near his own posts.

Minchella dribbled the loose ball in and touched down, only to see his effort chalked off by the touch judge for offside.

Smith was forced off after a heavy hit left him feeling groggy but the Bulls were asking a few more questions. Goodall threatened after another bull-dozing push from Peltier took them within range and Brown was denied a debut score when he was held on his back.

Thomas, who seemed to be involved in everything, almost returned the favour for his earlier score when he tossed a wild ball on the Bulls' ten-metre line. Ross Oakes hauled it in and the centre set off on a surge over halfway before Sheffield were able to haul him down.

Macani was always willing to have a go against his former employers but the Bulls generally stood up well to any Sheffield pressure.

The problem was their own lack of a cutting edge to turn promising field position into any points, too often coughing the ball up in scoring range, although they were up against opponents a level above what they can expect when the real action begins.

But they finally made it count after 69 minutes when Butterworth's short pass sent in Steve Crossley to barrel through hard and low. Rowan Milnes levelled the scores with a simple conversion.

Then with a weight lifted, the hosts struck again just two minutes later.

Dalton Grant cashed in on a catalogue of Sheffield errors as Millar dropped a high kick, Macani's attempt to boot the ball downfield hit another player and it cannoned up for the winger to claim the simplest of tries.

Bulls: Pickersgill, Grant, Gibson, Oakes, Rickett, Smith, Minchella, Crossley, Butterworth, Kirk, Johnson, Garside, Hallas. Interchange: Ryan, Brown, Milnes, Goodall, Halafihi, Peltier, King, Hodgson.

Sheffield: Millar, Macani, Igbinedion, Toole, Blackmore, Thomas, Fozard, Magrin, Burns, James, Davies, Pick, Moran. Interchange: Broadbent, McGretton, Garcia.