IF only this season could go on a little longer for resurgent Bradford Bulls they could be pushing for the top eight.
Since seeing their relegation confirmed, they have now won three successive Super League games – a feat not achieved for two years – the latest yesterday proving another stirring effort having trailed 12-0 against Hull FC.
Ironically, it was Joe Arundel, the England Knights centre deemed surplus to requirements by Hull coach Lee Radford, who proved pivotal in adding this scalp to that of Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos.
On loan at Odsal for the season, he crossed twice against his parent club to all but end their hopes of reaching the play-offs while another Hull loanee – Jay Pitts – also scored, benefitting, like so many of his colleagues, from Lee Gaskell, the classy Bradford stand-off who completely ran the show.
Bradford coach James Lowes said: “They (Pitts/Arundel) have been buzzing all week.
“To be fair there should be that spark every week not just because they’re playing a club that sort of let them go.
“It’s nice for them to win against Hull, though, and we’re working hard and are in talks (about signing for 2015) with both as they are good players.”
After the hosts had scored five successive tries to take control, abject Hull did kick back into action once more meaning it was a 70th-minute effort from Bradford’s Danny Addy – the Scotland international who the club will today confirm has signed a new two-year deal – that actually clinched this fixture.
Hull, then, were left to bemoan not being further in front than 12-10 at half-time.
They had a fierce wind behind them and Bradford’s ball control, especially coming out of their own half, was poor. But Lee Radford’s side struggled to make the most of all that possession and, as the hosts improved as the half grew on, they were, in fact, fortunate to still be ahead.
Jamie Shaul had given Hull a fourth-minute lead, the full-back finishing in typical fashion supporting up the middle after Joe Westerman had put Dean Hadley powering through.
Westerman converted and did so again when Gareth Ellis proved too strong from close range after edgy Bradford had spilled once more in the 18th minute.
Richard Horne had also gone close in between after more incisive play from Westerman but Lowes’s side, who had been under constant pressure, responded with their first attack for some time.
Shaul somehow ran into his own man trying to get to a kick and, amid the confusion, Bradford worked the ball wide to the left where Jamie Foster, playing his first game in five weeks, scored a try that got them straight back into the contest and also saw the winger pass 1,000 career points.
He converted, too, and, after Westerman had an effort ruled out for Danny Houghton’s forward pass, Hull produced a shambolic play to let Bradford strike again.
Horne had intercepted an awful Luke Gale pass and, though chased down by Addy, his side had numbers to capitalise on the bedraggled Bradford defence.
Yet they put the ball to ground and, moments later, Gaskell’s quality break saw Arundel racing 50m to score.
Foster’s touchline conversion struck a post but they took the lead four minutes into the second half when Adam Sidlow, the rangy Bradford prop, rumbled over all too easily from 10m out.
Foster did the rest and when Arundel scored his second shortly afterwards, hitting Gaskell’s fine pass to leave Richard Whiting grasping thin air, the winger’s kick suddenly saw Bradford 22-12 up.
Then Gaskell, always threatening, quickly darted through once more as a Hull defender stumbled and Pitts rounded off, Foster adding the extras.
The strength of that wind was evident as Westerman’s high re-start just reached 10m before blowing back into Hull possession for Jordan Rankin to swiftly put Ellis in again, Westerman converting.
Houghton thought he had surged over following a rare quick play-the-ball but Bradford somehow held up the England Knights hooker.
Australian half-back Rankin, back from injury, nearly weaved his way over past a raft of poor defensive efforts but the home side showed real resilience and recovered to see Addy confirm victory after a lovely inside ball from Gaskell, rendering late efforts from Setaimata Sa and Tom Lineham, improved by Westerman, redundant.
Radford was scathing about his failing side who remain in 12th with just one win in eight games.
“Honesty was the issue; our season hung on that result and at half-time and full-time I said we are where we are for a reason,” he said, insisting their season was now “done”.
“When you play with that much energy and your season defines on it, you simply will not make the top eight.
“You’ll cheat your way into the top eight if you get in after performances like that.”
Bradford Bulls: Kearney; Williams, Henry, Arundel, Foster; Gaskell, Gale; Manuokafoa, O’Brien, Sidlow, Olbison, Pitts, Donaldson. Substitutes: Baldwinson, Blythe, Ferguson, Addy.
Hull FC: Shaul; Lineham, Whiting, Yeaman, Talanoa; Abdull, Horne; Paea, Houghton, Watts, Ellis. Hadley, Westerman. Substitutes: Green, Paleaaesina, Heremaia, Sa.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).