James Lowes was adamant that crucial calls went against his brave Bradford side before they suffered a 50-30 defeat to Hull KR in a pulsating Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie at Odsal.
Lowes watched as his fired-up Kingstone Press Championship side twice held the lead, once by 12 points, before falling short at the end to a four-try and 30-point Josh Mantellato-inspired First Utility Super League outfit.
Bulls bossed the early stages, going ahead through tries from Adam O’Brien and Dale Ferguson before Rovers bounced back three touchdowns from Mantellato, Kris Welham and Albert Kelly to lead 18-12 at half-time.
But just before the break the visitors were maybe fortunate that prop Adam Walker was only sin-binned after appearing to launch a punch at Adam O’Brien – the home side’s Adam Sidlow also getting a yellow card for his follow-up actions.
Later, as the Bulls got their second wind and trailed 22-18, Kevin Larroyer scored a potentially crucial try for Rovers after what appeared to many an illegal ball steal in a two-man tackle.
Bradford coach Lowes pointed out: “Whether he (O’Brien) wound him up or not, it was still a punch and that’s surely a red card.”
Talking about the Larroyer try, Lowes added: “Whether it was a right or wrong call it took a lot out of our team. I was proud of the effort but we did some poor stuff which didn’t help ourselves so we shot ourselves in the foot as well.”
Hull KR boss Chris Chester conceded: “I’m a very relieved man – we are a bit busted regarding the squad but happy with the people who have come in and happy to get a result.
“Bradford played smart and were the better team for parts of that game, especially the first 15 or 20 minutes. But we found a way to get a result – credit to my boys and we’re happy to be in the next round.”
Bradford: Shaw, Uaisele, Walker, Henry, Ulugia, Gaskell, Addy, Clough, O’Brien, Sidlow, Olbison, Ferguson, Pitts. Substitutes: Walshaw, Mellor, Baile, Fleming.
Hull K R: Dixon, Mantellato, Welham, Salter, Sio, Campese, Kelly, Walker, Lunt, Burke, Larroyer, Horne, McCarthy. Substitutes: Cockayne, Donaldson, Ollett, Boudebza.
Referee: M Thomason (RFL).