Dewsbury Rams 24 Bradford Bulls 0

BRADFORD Bulls’ young pups may not have put any points on the board, but they still emerged from this Paul Sykes Testimonial clash with plenty of credit.

Against a full-strength Betfred Championship team, the visitors, who had six players making their debuts, conceded five tries in conditions that were worse than many of them will ever have experienced.

In biting cold, with the thermometer rarely getting above freezing, the Bulls made former player Sykes’ conversions so challenging that he managed to kick only two out of the five.

On a pitch that was well-grassed but had a sprinkling of white, the error count ended up being around the 40-mark for the contest, so that there was little flow.

Indeed there was a whisper that referee Brandon Robinson might not have even played the match had it not been a testimonial, and 1,012 hardy spectators wrapped themselves up and drank plenty of tea and coffee in a bid to ward off the cold.

The hosts knocked on in their second tackle of their initial set, but the Bulls could not capitalise, and were themselves pulled up for a high tackle at the other end of the pitch.

Man of the match Jamel Goodall, who has showed up well in the earlier friendlies against Halifax and Sheffield Eagles, came as close as any Bulls player to scoring in the opening phase, being held up over the Rams line and then again going close moments later near the home posts.

Dewsbury had the bigger physical element, however, in the perishing cold, and it needed a timely interception by winger Josh Rickett to halt another home raid.

Bulls stand-off Rowan Milnes then sliced a penalty kick to touch, but the League One side got away with it as the Rams made their seventh error of the contest.

The first time anyone made a clean break was second-row forward Michael Knowles in the 12th minute, but, having broken the initial defensive line, the Ram lost his footing.

Although they could make nothing of a penalty soon after, they went ahead in the 15th minute when right winger Michael Worrincy was tackled short of the line, only for his centre partner James Glover to go over from the play-the-ball.

Just how difficult kicks off the tee would prove was shown by Sykes slipping as he ran up, with the ball being hooked to the right of the posts.

Another close shave for the Rams defence came four minutes later when the Bulls got a repeat set in the red zone, only for Ethan Ryan’s try from a Milnes grubber to be disallowed as he was ruled to be ahead of the kicker.

Ryan was looking assured at the back and prop James Davies was carrying strongly for the visitors, but they were caught napping from a tap on the Rams’ 20-metre line, with second-row forward James Walshaw carrying on the momentum by scoring after 29 minutes.

Sykes hooked the conversion from an identical position to his first attempt.

He made no mistake six minutes later, however, after Glover bagged his second try, ducking under tackles.

Leading 14-0 at the break, the home side were in the ascendancy at the start of the second half, and forced the first goal-line drop-out.

They soon bagged try number four in the 48th minute, courtesy of interchange Dom Speakman, and by this time steam was rising off the packs.

Scrum half Gareth Moore then blew a golden opportunity for the Rams after Joe Keyes had a kick charged down, spilling the try-scoring pass.

Despite strong running by Oliver Wilson, the Bulls could find no chink in the home armour, and their fifth and final try followed via winger Dale Morton in the left-hand corner after a great cut-out pass by Sykes.

The latter, who is not contemplating retirement despite being 36 and approaching his 400th career game, then kicked a magnificent goal from close to the touchline.

The only question in the remaining 12 or so minutes was whether the Bulls could finally breach the Rams’ defensive line, and they threatened when Ryan caught Brandon Pickersgill’s bomb in the 75th minute.

But still Dewsbury would not yield, and they had a chance to add try number six when man of the moment Sykes pinged back the visitors with a 40-20.

However, in an attack that summed up the error-strewn nature of the match in primitive conditions, the Rams then knocked on in the first tackle.

Wilson kept running, but there was to be no late consolation for the visitors.

More worrying was the sight of Keyes coming off with a repeat of the knee injury that he picked up playing for Ireland in the World Cup, while Milnes went off with a shoulder injury.

Rams: Guzdek, Worrincy, Glover, Hallett, Morton, Sykes, Moore, Sheriffe, Ward, Teanby, Knowles, Walshaw, Brown. Interchanges: Speakman, Everett, Trout, Reilly.

Bulls: Ryan, Brown, Oakes, King, Rickett, Milnes, Pickersgill, Davies, Halafihi, Kirk, Johnson, Hodgson, Wood. Interchanges: Burnett, Butterworth, Doyle, Keyes, Goodall, Stephenson, Storton, Wilson, Foster, Scurr.