THE Bulls turned on the style to pull off their most impressive win since returning to the Championship.

John Kear has said how his team have had to tough it out because of the on-going injuries holding them back.

Their gutsy victory over old foes Leigh summed up that fighting spirit he has seen in the squad through the problems – dogged defence in a first half spent under the cosh and rapier-like thrusts to take their scoring chances in the second.

Any lingering thoughts of what might have been at Widnes were blown away in front of a hugely appreciative audience.

The team sheet had raised eyebrows around Odsal with the surprise return to the fray for Rowan Milnes from his knee tendon injury.

The youngster was not expected back for another couple of weeks but came into the squad in an 11th-hour switch with Brandon Pickersgill.

The full back dropped out of the squad completely, missing the chance to lock horns with his 2018 mentor Gregg McNally, as Ethan Ryan took over number one duties.

But having Milnes available meant Kear was finally able to call upon a specialist half as he teamed up with Matty Wildie. Elliot Minchella reverted to loose forward and Rhys Evans went out on the wing.

“Reignite the rivalry” was the marketing slogan for this reunion of two teams who enjoyed some belting match-ups in recent years, none better than that Bulls comeback from 32-6 to draw in 2016.

Both have since fought major financial battles off-the-field but Leigh were still able to boast significant top-flight manpower on dual reg from St Helens.

They included second-rower James Bentley, making his first return to Odsal since leaving for Saints after his breakthrough 2017 campaign.

Fullback McNally was also back on familiar territory after being allowed to leave the Bulls in January and be closer to home to care for sick wife Rosie. A collection before the game earned over £1,000 for her charity.

Leigh came bursting out the blocks and were rewarded with a fifth-minute try.

The Bulls gave away a costly penalty on the last tackle for delaying the play-the-ball right in front of the posts – and the visitors took full advantage as Micky Higham sent in Sam Brooks through an inviting gap.

But the home response was immediate and impressive with Milnes setting up Jake Webster to spin out of a tackle and run in near the left corner. Minchella took the kick but screwed it wide left.

Impressive defence then forced an error in Leigh territory and the Bulls knocked on the door once more.

Steve Crossley offloaded to send Minchella over but he could not get the ball down. It hardly mattered as the Bulls scored from their next set, Sam Hallas stabbing through for youngster Matty Storton to race in and finish.

The ding-dong nature of the contest continued, though, as Leigh were quickly back on terms. Jonny Pownall, who was briefly on loan at the Bulls two seasons ago, dived theatrically in the corner from a kick over the top.

Leigh were doing plenty of attacking, with Danny Richardson and Joshua Woods pulling the strings and causing the Bulls some problems.

Brooks was held up as he sniffed his second try and the hosts were grateful to see McNally ground a pass 10 metres out to defuse more danger. The former Bull was then denied a score himself for a forward pass from Richardson.

Connor Farrell was stopped a few metres short before Leigh showed quick hands to move threateningly into the Bradford half again. Pownall cut back inside on a weaving run – and the Bulls were punished for interference.

Richardson opted to take the two, his straightforward penalty nudging Leigh back in front.

Centurions were back on the charge as half-time approached and a long pass from McNally sent Stefan Marsh scurrying towards the corner. But excellent scrambling defence from Ryan and Wildie wrapped him up in time.

The Bulls still had time to level it up by the hooter thanks to a clever chip kick from Milnes, forcing Pownall to knock it behind.

Leigh were penalised for holding down as the Bulls pressed from the resulting drop-out and Minchella’s kick from bang in front brought it back all square.

The Bulls were handed a numerical advantage within five minutes of the restart. Pownall was yellow-carded for dissent after disputing a call with the touch judge.

Evans tried to send Wildie away down the right wing but he was hauled down desperately 15 metres out.

Tempers were rising as the teams came together when Leigh were penalised for holding down. Another flurry followed before the Bulls launched a flowing move that went one way then the other before David Foggin-Johnston was denied.

But the fuse had been lit and when the Bulls pinned a Leigh man behind his line, the drop-out led to another dust-up. That saw Liam Hood and Webster both sent to the sin-bin.

The Bulls still had their tails up and after Foggin-Johnston was stopped again within touching distance, Ryan scooped up the chance to sneak over from dummy half for his sixth try of the season and make it 16-12.

That was impressive quick-thinking – but nothing on the sensational try that followed to extend the Bulls’ advantage.

Leigh were on the attack when Hood sent a grubber kick inside the 10m line. It was hoovered up by Wildie and suddenly he was off to the races.

The hooker bolted away from one end to the other, covering almost the entire length of the field to send Odsal wild.

The roar was almost as big when Ashley Gibson and Evans combined to bundle Marsh into touch by the corner post as Leigh sensed a quick reply.

It summed up how hard the Bulls had worked to keep strong opponents in check as well as taking their own scoring chances.

That finishing sharpness was shown again with another sniper-like fifth try from Evans. The Welshman picked up a loose ball inside his own half and matched Wildie’s effort with a burst clear of the trailing Marsh to gallop beneath the posts.

But the defence had laid the foundations to negate Leigh since half-time – and that determination was clear again when Foggin-Johnston threw himself on McNally’s grubber kick as the Centurions tried in vain to break their second-half duck.