Betfred Challenge Cup: Bradford Bulls 12 Widnes Vikings 26


DESPITE controlling their Betfred Challenge Cup fourth-round tie for large periods, Bradford Bulls ended up losing by 14 points at home to Widnes Vikings.

The Bulls should have been ahead by half-time but instead were trailing 8-6 to a Joe Lyons try and two Tom Gilmore goals to a Kieran Gill try and Jordan Lilley goal.

Lloyd Roby’s try and Gilmore goal put Widnes 14-6 ahead early in the second half, but the Bulls were back in it just inside the hour when Billy Jowitt cottoned on to his own grubber kick to score for Lilley to convert.

But the Vikings had more energy in the latter stages and added tries by Sam Wilde and Joe Edge, with Gilmore landing two more goals to signal a disappointing end to the Bulls’ Challenge Cup run.

Lee Gaskell was again missing through illness for the hosts in a clash of five-times cup winners Bulls (including Bradford Northern) and seven-times cup winners Widnes, while Jaden Barraclough, Jamie Gill, Dom Waites and Will Oakes (18th man) missed out from the Bulls’ 21-man squad.

Widnes included former Bulls players Dan Murray, only signed late in the week from Halifax, and Ant Walker, who was on the bench, although another former Bull Liam Kirk missed out on the 17.

With the Challenge Cup on a plinth near where the players ran out, there was no excuse for not realising the importance of the contest and, on a pitch that looked in good condition despite all the recent rain, it proved to be an attritional first half in what were chilly conditions for spectators.

Gilmore put Widnes ahead with a penalty, after a high tackle on Callum Field, who was making his 100th career appearance, but, with Aidan McGowan a safe pair of hands at full back, the Bulls struck back after 14 minutes, with Michael Lawrence’s long pass giving left centre Kieran Gill the space to score, with Lilley popping over the goal.

Rhodri Lloyd was sin-binned by referee Ben Thaler for a high tackle on my Bulls man-of-the-match John Davies, but the Bulls could not take advantage, and lost prop Eribe Doro to a left-ankle injury that could him keep out for weeks, rather than days.

The hosts were having the lion’s share of possession and field position, but fell behind to a rare Vikings attack when Gilmore’s kick gave his half-back partner Lyons the chance to score, with Gilmore adding the goal.

Then Lilley was guilty of trying too hard just before the interval, a flamboyant over-the-head no-look pass being intercepted just before a long pass to winger Jorge Taufua dribbled into touch.

After scratching their heads as to why they were not ahead by half-time, rather than being 8-6 down, things got worse for the Bulls five minutes into the second half when McGowan fumbled Gilmore’s grubber, presenting the ball to Roby, who touched down for Gilmore’s kick to make it 14-6.

Roby’s joy soon turned to despair as he was sin-binned for tackling McGowan in the air, but again the Bulls could not make the extra man count.

Gill, Davies, Taufua and hooker Mitch Souter were intermittent threats for the Bulls, and when the latter charged down a kick, Jowitt was on hand seconds later to score a try when he followed up his own grubber kick, despite having his foot held by a Widnes player.

Lilley’s easy goal kick reduced the deficit to two points, but, rather than kicking on, the Bulls could not match the energy of the visitors and conceded the last 12 points.

With Lyons proving increasingly difficult to pin down as the Bulls dropped off tackles, Widnes scored via second-row Wilde, Gilmore’s goal making it 20-12.

Both sides then gave away penalties, and Gilmore had the good sense to keep the Bulls on the back foot by drilling kicks into touch inside the home 20.

Then some fluent Widnes passing gave left centre Edge a try inside the final minute, with Gilmore’s goal making the final score 26-12 to the visitors.

It was a disappointing day for the Bulls, who will have another knockout opportunity next Sunday when they are at home to Swinton Lions in an AB Sundecks 1895 Cup quarter-final.