Bradford Bulls 34 Swinton Lions 34

THE ICC World Cup final, the men's singles final at Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone may have been counter-attractions, as was a sold-out Bradford City v Liverpool, but there can have been no finer sporting contest anywhere today than this here at Odsal Stadium.

What entertainment, what drama, what a finish.

Bulls second-row forward Connor Farrell scored with seconds remaining, and Joe Keyes had a kick from the right touchline to win it.

When it left his boot it looked as it would go between the posts, but it just faded to the left of the uprights, leaving a superb contest a 34-34 draw.

Bulls, who had Liam Kirk and Webster sin-binned and trailed 22-6 at one stage, had tries from Jake Webster, Brandon Pickersgill, Jordan Lilley, Matty Garside, Farrell and Matty Storton, with Keyes landing five goals.

Swinton, who had winger Richard Lepori sent off in the second half and Patrick Jones and Lewis Hatton sin-binned, replied with tries by Matthew Ashton (2), Lepori, Harry Smith, Gavin Bennion and Samuel Kibula, with Jack Hansen adding five goals.

The Bulls gave a start to hooker Matty Wildie, with Sam Hallas relegated to the bench, with Storton also among the interchanges in place of Callum Bustin.

Swinton Lions brought in Lepori for Mike Butt on the wing, Smith at stand-off for Luke Shorrocks and promoted the powerful Kibula from the bench into the second row.

Ben Morris was set for his debut off the bench, while former Bull Scott Moore was alongside him, ready and waiting for his 250th career appearance. Jose Kenga was also among their interchanges.

One of the main points of interest was how would the Bulls react after triumphing in the debilitating heat of Toulouse last weekend.

The initial indications were not good as the Lions received the kick-off and went ahead inside 90 seconds after a 40-20 by Smith and a try on the left by Lepori, but the Bulls soon won possession back near the 30-metre line via a knock-on and Jy Hitchcox almost went over on the right.

However, the first penalty went to the Bulls and Kirk drove towards the posts only for Jon Magrin to be held up over the line.

Ethan Ryan diffused a chip kick at the expense of a goal-line drop-out but the Lions cashed in when prop Bennion had enough space to barge his way over for a simple try in the 12th minute, with Hansen adding the extras.

And it got worse three minutes later when winger Ashton put Smith in for another easy score down the right, with Hansen tagging on the goal.

A penalty heaped more pressure on the hosts, who had lost Kirk to the sin-bin for interference, and they again had to drop out from under their posts but relief came via a knock-on, which prompted the first set too of the day.

A decision was then reversed in Bradford's favour, which was followed by a penalty but the Bulls lost their opportunity as the match intensity ramped up alongside the players’ tempers.

Moore then came on for his 250th career appearance.

The hosts’ Pickersgill looked shaky under the high ball, and Ross Peltier came on to try and give the Bulls some impetus inside the last 15 minutes of the half but Webster could not quite conjure up a try for Hitchcox on the right.

Ryan, under pressure in attack, was having slim pickings on the left but it took a short Keyes pass to unlock Swinton's defence in the 29th minute as Garside went over to the left of the posts, with Keyes adding the goal.

But the 10-point deficit did not last long as Smith's kick gave Ashton the chance to leap for the ball and score in the in-goal area three minutes later, and Hansen's goal made it 22-6.

The tit-for-tat nature of the match continued, however, when the Bulls got their second try, with Hitchcox making the break and Pickersgill being up in support to go over with five minutes of the stanza remaining. Keyes landed the kick from the right touchline.

Momentum was with the Bulls now and three successive penalties gave them perfect field position, and a clever switch of play by Hallas gave Webster the chance to power his way over just before the half-time hooter.

Keyes landed the goal from near the right wing to make the interval score just 22-18 in Swinton's favour.

After a cracking first half of rugby league in which Swinton showed that they were no mugs, the Bulls won an early second-half penalty in centrefield.

Farrell almost bunny-hopped his way over the Swinton line before the Lions conceded their first goal-line drop-out.

Visiting prop Hatton was sin-binned for a late challenge in 48th minute and Ross Oakes, deputising for Ryan, who went off injured in first half, was almost over on the left wing.

Two penalties relieved pressure on the Lions, however, and they made them count with a Kibula try on the right in the 52nd minute, and it was back to a 10-point game with Hansen's goal.

The Bulls needed someone to step up to the plate but the Lions defence was holding firm, despite conceding another goal-line drop-out.

Lilley breathed new life into the Bulls with a show-and-go try in the 59th minute, and Keyes' goal narrowed the deficit to four points.

And they came up trumps again with a Storton try on the last play of a set of six in the 66th minute, and Keyes put the Bulls ahead for the first time in the match with the goal.

And they were almost over again three minutes later after a Keyes break, whose pass under pressure didn't quite go to hand.

A Swinton penalty gave Kibula the chance to worry the Bulls defence again and the home crowd but that dissipated after a knock-on.

A lengthy fracas, started with a brawl between Webster and Hatton, then ensued which broke off into different factions. Jones was also sin-binned for the visitors. 

Webster was yellow carded but, after allowing Webster to leave the pitch, Lepori was red carded with eight minutes left.

Ashton, who had looked lively all game, then ran 60 metres, breaking past several would-be tacklers, to score under the posts in the 74th minute.

Hansen's simple goal put the Lions 34-30 in front.

Oakes went down the left wing and almost scored and then Kirk did likewise in the centre before Peltier was ruled held up in a thrilling finish.

The Bulls then forced another goal-line drop-out and in a Grandstand finish, a long pass put Farrell over in the right-hand corner with seconds remaining.

The hooter sounded before Keyes had the chance to win the match with the final kick.

It looked as if it would go over when it left his boot but it faded to the right of the posts to leave a breath-taking contest a 34-34 draw.