Bradford Bulls 26 Barrow Raiders 14

THE overwhelming emotion was one of relief after Bradford Bulls made it six straight wins in either the Challenge Cup or Betfred Championship.

Coming so soon after the Good Friday programme, the fare on offer was not good but Bulls coach John Kear was delighted with the performance if not the controversial dismissal of second-row forward Connor Farrell in the dying seconds for allegedly elbowing Raiders half-back Jamie Dallimore.

After their 33-26 victory at Halifax three days previously, Brandon Pickersgill came in at full back for the hosts, with Ethan Ryan moving to the wing and Jake Webster switching inside to centre to partner Elliott Minchella, with Ross Oakes and David Foggin-Johnston dropping out.

Sam Hallas started at hooker, with Matty Wildie being an interchange, while Mikey Wood had recovered from sickness and diarrhoea and resumed at loose forward.

Colton Roche was set for his second Bulls debut on the bench, which also included Evan Hodgson.

Barrow, seeking a first win over the Bulls since the day after President John F Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, brought Tom Walker onto the bench in what was their only change from the squad that lost to Toronto Wolfpack.

The fifth-placed Bulls had the majority of the play in the first half but did not really capitalise due to some fundamental errors.

However, they took the lead in the 17th minute via a dummy-half scoot from Farrell, with MInchella adding the conversion.

It took the Bulls another 17 minutes to add to their lead when Webster drew Barrow winger Stargroth Amean to put Dalton Grant over in the corner.

Barrow had one breakaway, with Theerapol Ritson running out of dummy half but Ryan got back to cause winger Shane Toal to spill the ball forward.

The half ended with a sterling piece of defensive cover by Webster near the dug outs.

The second half began with a startling announcement about a person who was instructed to return to their car as they had left their engine running.

With the sun trying to break out from a cloudy sky, the Bulls were now playing towards the open terracing and conceded the first try in the 45th minute.

Half-back Lewis Charnock put in an accurate bomb and Toal competed with Ryan for the catch, knocking the Bulls winger to the floor in the act of catching the ball and going over for the try.

Charnock missed the goal but the hosts responded well, with a play-the-ball under the Barrow sticks before Bradd Crellin was helped off for treatment.

The Bulls forced a goal-line drop-out, and Ross Peltier and Crossley took play back to just outside the 10-metre line.

Bradford made it count in the same set of six as a short pass from Rowan Milnes put Minchella over on the right in the 50th minute.

Minchella was off target with the shot at goal, but they were soon back on the front foot, although the attack ended disappointingly when Webster knocked the ball forward, as did the visitors in their next raid.

Pickersgill was unlucky just shy of the hour when he broke through and looked a likely scorer only for referee Nick Bennett to bring play back and penalise Barrow.

A Wildie grubber caused the Raiders problems and Toal’s error kept the Bulls in the ascendancy.

Ross Peltier almost got over against the grain but Jordan Lilley did touch down seconds later nearer to the right touchline.

Minchella added the extras to make it 20-4, although he didn’t seem to strike it cleanly, and the Raiders then profited from a short kick-off, regaining possession.

And they made it count with a smart offload by Dallimore putting in loose forward Alec Susino, referee Bennett and his touch judges then having to sort out a melee after the try.

Charnock’s simple kick gave Raiders hope again at 20-10, and Bennett had a word with skippers Crossley and Charnock before play restarted.

Wartovo Puara’s mazy run put Barrow within range again, only for Amean to knock on, but their fans did not have to wait too long for their third try when Charnock gathered his own kick after Ryan and Jake Spedding had collided.

However, Charnock was wide with the 69th-minute conversion attempt, leaving the Bulls still leading 20-14.

Bodies were tiring after a second game in four days but the Bulls scored a vital try in the 73rd minute, creating a two-versus-one on the right for Webster to go over, with Minchella’s conversion making it 26-14.

Jarrad Stack was held up over the Bulls line with five minutes to go as the Raiders ramped up the pressure but the Bulls survived.

Play was either inside or just outside the Bulls 20 at this stage but Ryan’s athletic catch off a Raiders kick and the concession of a penalty straight after relieved the pressure.

Dallimore claimed that he was the victim of a Farrell elbow inside the last minute, and the officials agreed, red-carding the second-row forward.

Raiders then strove for a fourth try but the ball was palmed dead in goal to end the contest, with booing from the home fans ringing out for the referee’s decision to send off Farrell.