Bradford Bulls 32 Hull KR 26
BRADFORD BULLS spirited players once more produced just the sort of gutsy performance they are becoming renowned for last night to keep their Super League play-off dream alive.
Off the field, it emerges up to five bids have been placed with the RFL ahead of yesterday’s deadline for offers.
On it, the squad delivered another fine display which is all the more remarkable considering all the uncertainty surrounding the club’s future.
How fitting it was that Jamie Langley, the only remaining member of the Bradford side that last won a Grand Final in 2005, was the man who came up with two crucial tries.
The unyielding loose forward never lacks effort, leadership and drive but he is now known for his scoring feats.
Last night, though, he doubled his tally for the season to help Bradford draw level with Hull KR in that crucial eighth spot.
With only three games remaining, they now only trail their vanquished opponents on points difference and momentum is clearly growing for a squad that simply refuses to give in.
There was plenty of other sterling efforts, not least from Michael Platt, who was a fierce presence at centre particularly with his defence, and the effervescent scrum-half Luke Gale.
For Rovers, after suffering a late loss against champions Leeds Rhinos on Sunday, they will know this is another game that could have warranted more.
Some early ill-discipline saw Bradford concede a glut of penalties, the last of which Michael Dobson converted for a fifth-minute lead.
But their attacking tendencies quickly came to the fore as Langley slipped Tom Olbison racing through midfield from halfway.
It needed a terrific cover tackle from Rovers’ centre Liam Salter to just drag down the supporting Brett Kearney and then his colleagues defended their line manfully.
The visitors had a similar chance when their young full-back Louis Sherriff, who looked dangerous with every possession, arrowed through a yawning gap and was only chased down at the corner by a Kearney and Ben Jeffries double effort.
Bradford did make their breakthrough when Jeffries’ delayed a pass which put Langley storming to the line from 10 metres although Graeme Horne should have done far better with his meek tackle attempt.
Gale improved the 17th-minute score only for Langley to make an uncharacteristic error in the restart set, offering Rovers an immediate chance to respond.
A frustrated Heath L’Estrange was pulled for offside and then Jeffries needlessly rushed off his line creating a gap for Rovers prop Scott Taylor to comfortably exploit.
Dobson converted but the hosts – who had Matt Diskin back from a dislocated shoulder – were equally as swift with their own response.
Referee James Child had wiped the tackle-count clean as they were pressuring the Rovers line but it did not deter Gale from boldly chipping to the corner when he spotted Shaun Ainscough in acres of space.
The winger duly collected the ball to finish off his scrum-half’s excellent vision and execution, notching a 10th try of the season.
Gale added his second conversion before young Rovers prop James Green entered the fray for his debut – and was immediately floored after a clash of heads with former Hull KR centre Chev Walker.
The towering teenager had an eventful first game – he was also put on report for appearing to raise his knees into Olbison when he returned the second half kick-off, an action that saw the Bradford player depart injured.
Rovers had regained the lead in the 31st minute with a crisp blindside move that saw Ben Galea suck in the defence and Dobson arc around to give winger Dave Hodgson a walk-in.
His touchline conversion shaved the right side of the post for a 14-12 advantage and, after Gale had sailed the restart dead, Platt was called upon to hold up a burrowing Lincoln Withers.
Early in the second period, Rovers required Mickey Paea to snuff out a sweeping Bulls handling movement, but there was no denying Jason Crookes in the 54th minute.
Platt was the instigator again with a great offload before, three long passes later, Keith Lulia busted down the opposite side to feed his winger with a glorious flick pass.
It was Crookes’s first game since suffering a shoulder injury in March and, so, the difficult finish deserves praise.
Gale curled over the conversion and did so after when Langley added his second.
The ex-England man picked up a loose ball off from Manase Manuokafoa and surged over from 20 metres, throwing Sheriff clear as the young full-back tried to go high.
Salter struck straight back though, scoring his first Super League try from a rare Rovers foray, but Gale stepped through to set up Elliott Whitehead and send Bulls fans delirious.
Playing with urgency, passion and real desire, they upped the ante to leave their beaten opponents searching for answers.
Craig Hall responded in the final seconds but it could not silence the Bradford roar with their brilliantly vocal fans celebrating long after the final hooter.
Bradford Bulls: Kearney; Ainscough, Platt, Lulia, Crookes; Jeffries, Gale; Kopczak, L’Estrange, Hargreaves, Olbison, Whitehead, Langley. Substitutes: Burgess, Manuokafoa, Diskin, Walker.
Hull KR: Sheriff; Latus, Hall, Salter, D Hodgson; Murrell, Dobson; Paea, J Hodgson, O’Hara, Galea, Horne, Griffin. Substitutes: Withers, Taylor, Green, Cox.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).