Bradford Bulls 16

Batley Bulldogs 0

BRADFORD Bulls are back to winning ways and they did it in style, nullifying a physical Batley Bulldogs side.

Kear’s men soldiered to a 16-0 victory at an Odsal Stadium which witnessed several weather types throughout the game.

It's the first time the Bulls have nilled a side all season and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

An assured, hard-fought victory in this one will certainly boost morale and should help build momentum in the quest for promotion.

The Bulls have had a torrid time of it of late – losing their last four games since that heroic effort in the Coral Challenge Cup against Leeds Rhinos.

Everything was looking rosy; going well in the league, through to the quarters of the Challenge Cup, and another opportunity for silverware in the 1895 Cup.

But, Kear’s men have dropped out of both of those and he’s now describing every league game as big four-pointers, after their recent slump.

The Bulldogs conversely are enjoying a purple patch that has seen them win four of their last five.

It was always going to be a game of small margins and little in the way of elegant, creative rugby.

Instead, it was a match of of workmanship; of defence against defence.

Kear’s men came out on top in most departments and took their chances when they came in a clinical performance.

The expected tight nature of the game certainly came to fruition in the first-half, which ended with just a single try in favour of the home side.

As the players emerged for the warm-ups, the heavens opened creating a slick, slippy surface and that set the tone for the first 40 minutes.

Bulls started the better, but the pendulum of pressure continually swung between the two teams.

Despite home advantage, it was Batley Bulldogs who enjoyed much of the first-half possession.

But they couldn’t make it tell, struggling to break through a resolute Bulls defensive line.

The likes of Jake Webster, Ethan Ryan and Dalton Grant were pivotal in that sense.

Then, in a rare foray forward, Bulls put some points on the board, taking full advantage of the slick, quick passing that was working well for them in this game.

Just inside nine minutes, diminutive Sam Hallas nearly made it under the posts but was caught just short.

With the threat of the final challenge looming, Bulls decided to take a risk and work it left for a try.

The Bulls penchant for short passing told in that passage of play.

The ball was moved through Matty Wildie, onto Ross Oakes, who got his first of two assists when playing it along to winger David Foggin-Johnston. He had plenty of room in front of him to play with and attacked it with pace and purpose.

Foggin-Johnston made it certain by diving to plant the ball down over the line in the corner.

It was a tough angle for Jordan Lilley – on kicking duties – to add the extras and his punt drifted wide to the left.

The Bulldogs came back with bark and bite from that point onwards.

There were a couple of deft grubber kicks attempted by the visitors deep into enemy territory.

But, Batley couldn’t quite get it right, and had to watch as they drifted out behind the Bulls line.

One of those saw Jake Webster use all his strength to shield off on-rushing Bulldogs players intent on fetching a troublesome Jouffret drilled kick.

Webster stood out as a key character throughout the match.

He made good ground with his drives, linked up well with Grant and was fantastic in defence.

But it was the arrival on the pitch of Ross Peltier – making his 100th career appearance – in the 21st minute that helped the Bulls relieve some pressure from their line.

The big Jamaican made an immediate impact, charging like a train through several Bulldogs players and making significant yardage.

Batley themselves used their physical prowess during the match, leaving a lot on the home side, building the tension which erupted later in the game.

The first big instance came when Ryan won a penalty for the Bulls.

As he leapt into the air deep in his half to collect yet another Batley bomb, an entourage of Bulldogs players took him out.

There was a heart-in-mouth moment for Ryan as the break approached though.

The full-back was unusually shaky when he went to collect a simple ball put through behind the Bulls line.

As got hold of it, Ryan somehow managed to flick the ball over his head and had to concede a goal-line drop-out with Tomlinson quickly approaching.

The sun shone down on the Odsal field at the dawn of the second half and it ushered in a slightly brighter 40 minutes of play.

Batley looked like they meant business in the second period and they quickly fashioned a chance.

The Bulls had been making mistakes all game and getting away with it, but they nearly shot themselves in the foot on the 44th minute mark.

Another Batley high-kick looked to be settling in the hands of Webster near the line.

But, he collided with one of his own when jumping and the ball flicked behind the Bulls line as a result, with Dane Manning rushing on to put the ball down.

To the Bulls’ relief though, referee Matt Rossleigh pulled it back for a knock-on from Batley in the jump to collect the kick.

Tension between the sides was apparent right from the off and it all boiled over on the 53rd minute.

A high shot from Manning on Webster saw a bumper biff erupt, with punches thrown.

The referee chose not to send any players to the bin, but Batley were punished on the pitch from the resulting penalty.

Foggin-Johnston got his second in what was almost a carbon copy try to his first.

Then, just five minutes later in the 60th minute, the Bulls put the tie beyond any doubt, thanks in part to a slice of luck.

Matty Wildie’s deft kick through looked to be an easy one to collect, but it took a knick off a Bulldogs player which brought it into the path of Elliot Minchella.

The stand-in captain for the day, made no mistake when the opportunity came his way, planting the ball down near the posts.

Lilley hit an easy conversion to add the extras, as he did for the try just five minutes before.

The Bulldogs still didn't give in though and piled the pressure on in the last 20, as they had for much of the match.

But possession doesn't mean points and the Bulls line was solid and organised and they were able to secure a much-needed victory here.