Bradford Bulls 18 Castleford Tigers 14: Bulls strike back with perfect answer after Giants battering

THIS was like the Odsal of old.

Almost like Bullmania had started again.

At the end of a compelling match, having witnessed their gutsy side heroically defend their line against a series of late Castleford attacks, Bulls supporters rose to show their appreciation and the rickety stadium roared once more.

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There have been a few years recently where that has not always been the case but yesterday a crowd of 14,348 – a superb attendance and one which is becoming the norm – witnessed a fine fixture and those Bradford fans will have left in good heart.

A week after seeing their team meekly surrender at Huddersfield, where they at times defended embarrassingly on the way to a 50-16 defeat, the Bulls faithful must have been stunned as to how well they managed to turn it around so quickly.

Well-organised, disciplined and holding great shape, they restricted Castleford to just one breakaway try in 77 minutes of action, scrambled tremendously when required and ended the last remaining 100 per cent record in Super League.

Their West Yorkshire opponents fared well and showed plenty of the skills which had seen them rise to the summit in the early part of this season.

However, Terry Matterson’s side were simply not quite as slick as in their previous wins, partly due to the loss of captain and organiser Danny Orr midway through the second period with a shoulder injury, and so when it came to the crucial moments they did not manage to execute as normal.

Trailing 18-14 after Daryl Clark’s 70-metre try had narrowed the gap just before the hour, prop Craig Huby bizarrely put in a foolish grubber kick on the fourth tackle as Castleford pressed hard and soon after another novice kicker – Richie Mathers – found himself having to put boot to ball as well as they missed their principal kicker.

Even Rangi Chase could not put in an effective last play and that would be the only way of breaking down Bradford’s impressive defence.

The home side, strengthened by the return of England loose forward Jamie Langley in the middle, repeatedly protected their line with real conviction to leave their opponents frustrated.

However, those fans must have been thinking they might be on the end of another heavy defeat when Chase glided through after only three minutes.

The elusive Kiwi stand-off was highlighted by coach Mick Potter as the man they had to stop but they were powerless as he dummied his way through and then sprinted 45 metres for a wonderful solo try. Kirk Dixon improved but Bradford hit back eight minutes later after Oliver Holmes cheaply gave up possession.

Shad Royston almost got in before France captain Olivier Elima burrowed over from acting half, Patrick Ah Van converting.

Ah Van thought he had scored himself following some quality off-loads from Andy Lynch and Elima and a fine initial flick-pass from Brett Kearney to Elliott Whitehead, but it was harshly pulled back for a forward pass.

Likewise, Castleford winger Nick Youngest, who had scored five tries in four games, believed he had continued his prolific form when he grasped a high kick but he left a foot in touch to see Bradford escape.

Tigers’ Nick Fozzard just managed to deny a storming Nick Scruton and it was the visitors who nudged ahead with a 29th- minute penalty from Dixon.

Castleford hooker Adam Milner was held up while Whitehead squandered a chance at the other end when Shaun Ainscough squeezed out a pass which he fumbled.

However, he made up for his error by producing a classy off-load to the impressive Heath L’Estrange in front of the posts, the Australian then finding Scruton for the ex-Leeds prop’s first try in 13 months.

Ironically, his last came against Castleford also and the only other league try he has scored for Bradford, in 2009, was versus the same opponents.

Ah Van improved the score just before the interval and then Scruton was in for his second soon after the re-start, surging through from 20 metres after L’Estrange’s pass dissected the Tigers defence.

Ah Van added the extras and Brett Ferres was forced to hold up Craig Kopczak as the hosts looked to increase their advantage.

It was from one of their own attacking kicks – fittingly given Castleford’s problems in that area – that the visitors actually responded.

Marc Herbert’s bomb bounced on the Tigers 20-metre line and found its way to Clark, the 18-year-old hooker who again looked a class act.

He soon found himself in space and there were no Bulls players able to catch the sprightly teenager.

Dixon goaled once more but then Castleford, who handed ex-Melbourne Storm centre Willie Isa his debut, encountered that stubborn resistance.

Royston and Elima combined brilliantly to somehow deny Holmes and there were countless acts of outstanding tackles.

Rarely can a side have deserved their win so much.

Bradford Bulls: Sykes; Ainscough, Platt, Royston, Ah Van; Kearney, Herbert; Lynch, Diskin, Hargreaves, Elima, Whitehead, Langley. Substitutes: Scruton, L’Estrange, Olbison, Kopczak.

Castleford Tigers: Mathers, Dixon, Arundel, Ferres, Youngquest; Chase, Orr; Jackson, Milner, Huby, Holmes, Emmitt, Jones. Substitutes: Fozzard, Aspinwall, Isa, Clark.

Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).

Defensive steel helps Bradford to deserved win

BRADFORD coach Mick Potter praised his side’s resolve after they produced a stunning defensive effort to end the only 100 per cent record in Super League.

The Bulls overcame Castleford Tigers, who had won all four of their opening fixtures, with an 18-14 success at Grattan Stadium yesterday, the most impressive aspect of which was their ability to limit their opponents’ chances.

Bradford had leaked 50 points versus Huddersfield Giants seven days earlier but they were transformed in a victory that lifted them into eighth spot.

“It wouldn’t have been hard to improve on last week,” said Potter, having seen his determined players keep a pressing Castleford side at bay for the final 21 minutes.

“I thought we showed some real grit and determination, especially in the second half.

“Even then we probably weren’t playing at our best but our defence was just so much better than it was last week.

“The guys had worked hard through the week on that.

“It was chalk and cheese as far as the defence goes. Defence is a team game and if you don’t communicate, your defence looks much more frail.

“Today the players were saying how much better they felt about the structure.

“You take those simple things for granted sometimes and you just can’t afford to be doing that. But the players responded from last week.”

They were boosted by the return of England international Jamie Langley who delivered a typically industrious performance.

“Jamie’s an experienced Super League player and part of what he’s good at is communication and his talk,” said Potter.

Castleford coach Terry Matterson rued some of his side’s decision-making when they were trying to get a decisive score in that final quarter.

“There was a kick from Craig Huby which we didn’t plan for and then Rangi Chase also put one in which wasn’t great,” he said. “But I’m not too disappointed. I thought the effort was really good.

“There was a lot of good stuff out there; we were very courageous but not quite as smart as we have been.

“I knew Bradford would bounce back and we were prepared for that. We had a fair few opportunities.”