Halifax 26 Bradford Bulls 33

BULLS got the better of their neighbours Halifax in thrilling style with another comeback which is rapidly becoming their trademark.

Less than a week after overturning an 18-point deficit in their Challenge Cup triumph over Featherstone, John Kear’s troops were at it again in a scintillating derby at The Shay.

It looked as if Bulls’ four-game losing streak was coming to an end when Halifax led 26-12 with less than a quarter of the game to go.

But this side clearly don’t know when they are beaten and tries from Elliot Minchella, Steve Crossley and Jake Webster plus, of course, another long range drop goal from Jordan Lilley turned the game on its head.

All of the talk among Bulls fans this week may have been about the upcoming clash with a certain other West Yorkshire rival.

And while the return of the derby with Leeds will understandably set pulses racing more than any other fixture for Bradford, it’s the ones against Halifax that are arguably more likely to define their season.

Having already played each other in the pre-season Yorkshire Cup, this was the second meeting of at least four between the two neighbours.

They meet again next month at the Summer Bash and at Odsal in June.

Like Bulls, Fax came into this holiday fixture in good form, with three wins on the spin, most notably over Super League visitors London last time out in the Challenge Cup.

Like Bulls, they began the day on 10 points with five wins and four defeats in the Championship, their inferior goal difference putting them a place below their visitors in seventh.

And like Bulls, they had half-back shortages. Scott Murrell, with an abductor injury, and Ben Johnston (hand) were both missing.

Summer-like conditions suggested it could be a high-scoring game and so it proved.

Bulls got off to the worst possible start when a loose pass from Lilley was intercepted by James Woodburn-Hall, who ran virtually the length of the pitch to touch down and Steve Tyrer converted.

Kear’s side continued their habit of starting games too slowly and it looked as if Fax had increased their lead when former Bradford forward Ben Kavanagh went close but was ruled to have been held up just short.

David Foggin-Johnston showed good defence to put winger Will Sharp into touch before Bulls levelled the scores at the other end. Ethan Ryan wrongfooted the Halifax defence and saw a gaping hole which he stormed through to touch down.

It was Bulls’ first real foray since Fax’s early break, with Minchella making the simple conversion to level the score. Minchella’s boot then put them in front after Halifax were caught offside.

After the hosts’ early pressure, now it was Bulls doing all the attacking. And it was fleet-footed flyer Ryan who almost scored a wonder try.

Weaving in and out of least four tackles, he came close to touching down only to be held up just short. The ball was ripped out at the play-the-ball and Minchella added another two to make it 10-6 to Bulls.

Back came Halifax in a derby which was certainly living up to its billing. Ed Barber proved too strong in the tackle and his offload to Will Sharp saw the winger go on a mazy run to the line, eluding an attempted tackle from Ryan.

That put the sides back level but Tyrer surprisingly missed what looked a makeable conversion, screwing his kick well wide to the left.

Back came Bulls as Halifax conceded yet another penalty. This time it was former Bradford loanee Kevin Larroyer who illegally put his hands in the ruck.

Minchella added the extras but Bulls’ slender lead would not last long as an error from the restart led to a scrum head and feed for Fax in a threatening position.

The hosts’ capitalised as Shaun Robinson produced a weaving run to the line to touch down, Tyrer this time on target with the conversion to make it 16-12.

You couldn’t take your eyes off this see-saw affair and, as half-time beckoned, there was still time for more incident.

Dalton Grant got behind the Fax line to go over, only for the touch judge to rule that the winger – much to his protestations – had put a foot in touch.

Bulls started the second half well as great defensive work from Grant, Webster and Connor Farrell dragged Tyrer into touch.

But it was Halifax who struck first blood in the second half as a flowing move from right to left saw Quentin Laulu-Togoga’e set up Tyrer for a try in the corner.

That was converted and the Halifax centre added four more points with two penalties as indiscipline crept into Bulls’ game.

At 26-12 the hosts looked in control and Bradford appeared to be wilting in the heat.

Fax broke again and a try looked on the cards after good play from Elliot Morris. But Ryan showed he has defensive strength allied to his attacking ability with a superb last-ditch tackle.

That kept Bulls in it but they had to score next and they did so when Minchella made an interception just past halfway and powered to the line despite the efforts of Tyrer to catch him.

Minchella added the extras and then took a breather before Rowan Milnes was needed for kicking duties.

That was after another penalty for Bulls deep in Fax territory. Kear signalled to go for the two – which brought some boos from the Bradford fans massed behind the sticks who wanted to go for the try with their side still eight points down.

But it proved a good decision from the coach as Milnes kicked the two and then Steve Crossley powered over after a good pass from Lilley, Milnes converting to make it 26-26.

It might not have been quite as dramatic as the week before but the comeback kings were at it again.

And the sense of déjà vu increased when Lilley kicked another drop goal from nearly 50 yards to edge Bulls in front.

There were still just under 10 minutes left but all the momentum was with the visitors now.

Yet Halifax so nearly regained the lead when Robinson dived into the left-hand corner – only for more last-gasp defence from Bulls to edge him just into touch and the try was ruled out despite the cheers of the home fans.

It was still anyone’s game but when Webster dived over from dummy half and Milnes converted, you knew that was it and the Bulls fans could celebrate another thrilling victory.