Batley 23 Bulls 10

NARRATIVE is a funny thing.

Sport is played without any scripts, but sometimes the stories and headlines just write themselves.

Bulls had been 16-0 down to Batley at the break in this Championship elimination play-off, but dominated the second half, and tries from Joe Brown and Jordan Lilley meant they had reduced the deficit to six points with eight minutes left.

But then Elliot Hall, who has been strongly linked with a move to Bulls for 2022, squeezed over in the left corner.

After an agonising delay, with the video referee checking the full-back was neither in touch nor had made a double movement when grounding the ball, the try was awarded.

And with the superb Tom Gilmore nailing his touchline conversion, before slotting over a drop goal moments later, the final nails had been inserted into the coffin.

Bulls’ season is now over, and they will be playing Championship rugby league again next year.

It was a quiet start, with a successful penalty from Gilmore after Bulls were penalised for offside the only score in the opening 15 minutes.

But Gilmore had magic in his boots all afternoon, and off the back of a superb 40-20 from him, Batley crossed for their first try, courtesy of Ben Kaye.

Some good Bulls defence had kept the hosts out earlier in the set, but clever hands from the hooker saw him burrow over under the posts.

Bradford wasted a couple of sets from good attacking positions after Batley full-back Luke Hooley dropped a pair of high bombs, and their failure to take advantage proved costly.

Danny Brough was penalised for an illegal tackle on Hooley and Gilmore took the easy two on offer, before he scored a try moments later.

Brough was left exposed in defence, and loose forward Nyle Flynn flicked the final pass to Gilmore.

He raced over to score, before converting his own effort to make it 16-0.

David Foggin-Johnston’s superb last ditch tackle prevented Flynn from scoring a try of his own immediately afterwards, with Bulls clinging on by the break.

Batley came close a couple of times early on in the second half, with the closest of those incidents seeing Lilley have to bat a loose final pass from just metres out into touch.

Superb Batley defence denied Joe Brown what looked like a certain score, before a James Brown try for the hosts was ruled out after the ball had gone forward.

Seconds later, and Bulls put their first points on the board.

Lilley fed Rhys Evans in space and he scooted through before laying it off to Joe Brown, who fended off his man to fly over in the right corner.

Brough’s difficult kick from the touchline floated just wide, but Bulls sensed a momentum shift.

George Flanagan went close, and though Elliot Kear nearly blew it all with a risky attacking pass that was intercepted but then dropped, it was nearly all Bulls heading into the final 20 minutes.

Flanagan did crash over the line and while he was convinced he had scored, the video ref, in use for these play-offs, deemed that he had been held up.

Dan Fleming dived on a loose ball over the line moments later, but the ball had gone forward out of the tackle, and that was also ruled out.

Bradford came straight back. Brough’s delicate little grubber was somehow reeled in by the trailing arm of Lilley, and the scrum-half went over for his side’s second try.

Brough converted with ease to bring his side back to within one score.

Bulls skipper Steve Crossley charged through to try and bring his side level, but he was held up, before Hall looked to have been put in for Batley by winger Greg Johnson, but the pass was ruled forward.

Brough collected a ball that popped out of Crossley’s hands to stroll over, but the referee ruled that had gone forward too, much to the stand-off’s disbelief.

And after Hooley put Hall in at the corner, despite Kear’s best efforts to stop the latter, Bulls’ close shaves came back to haunt them.

A deflated Bradford were finally beaten, and Gilmore’s drop goal finished them off once and for all.

Batley go through to the semi-finals to face Toulouse in France next weekend, and for Bulls?

Well there’s always next year.

BATLEY: Hooley, Campbell, Morton, Buchanan, Johnson, White, Gilmore, Brown, Kaye, Blagbrough, Walshaw, Manning, Flynn. Interchanges: Leak, Ward, Lillycrop, Hall.

BULLS: Kear, Brown, R. Evans, Oakes, Foggin-Johnston, Brough, Lilley, B. Evans, Doyle, Crossley, Rooks, Murphy, Hallas. Interchanges: Flanagan, Walker, Scurr, Fleming.