MONDAY POLL - Huddersfield Giants 52 Bradford Bulls 26: Inevitable demise of Bulls is confirmed at Giants
IT has been a slow and painful demise, but the end finally came for Bradford Bulls yesterday.
They had been in the death throes for a number of weeks but it was Huddersfield Giants, with a few swift incisions of the dagger, who finally brought about the killer blow and confirmed their West Yorkshire rivals’ relegation.
Of course, more pertinently, a severe lack of business acumen from a number of different club hierarchies over the past decade essentially created the mess the erstwhile Super League champions now find themselves in.
It would be wrong to blame Bradford’s players too greatly, although this squad certainly should have had enough about them to contribute more than just the four victories they have reaped from 21 league fixtures so far this term, so they are not off the hook either.
It seems like only yesterday that the likes of Robbie Paul, Jamie Peacock, Jimmy Lowes and Lesley Vainikolo were running amok, tearing up this competition and the world alike.
But now Bradford, who have fallen outside the top flight for the first time in 40 years, must look forward to a 2015 that could involve trips to Dewsbury, Whitehaven and Batley.
It remains uncertain whether they will continue their High Court appeal against a six-point deduction for entering administration. Even if successful they would still be seven adrift of safety. It is better to stop writhing.
There was plenty of spirit yesterday as they threatened to upset 2013 League Leaders’ Shield winners Huddersfield but, in the end, there was just not enough class or composure to deliver the win that would delay the inevitable at least until Sunday’s visit from champions Wigan.
It was a low quality contest –Jermaine McGillvary’s hat-trick for the hosts the highlight – with fundamental mistakes from both sides that almost seemed continuous.
At one point, though, every time a side made an error – and lackadaisical Huddersfield were, in the first half certainly, just as guilty as the visitors – their opponents would capitalise so the scoreboard, at least, kept ticking over.
Luke George, the former Huddersfield winger who was making his first appearance since Lowes took over as head coach last month, enjoyed his return to Kirklees with two tries in the first half.
His first came after just seven minutes when Jake Connor, the young Huddersfield full-back, had already dropped his second pass of the game.
But James Donaldson erred in the re-start set to let Connor quickly make up for his initial fumbles and the tone was set.
Luke Gale darted to find Adam O’Brien on his shoulder for Bradford’s second try, Jamie Foster kicking the first of his three conversions.
But more woeful handling –Bradford’s Brett Kearney dropping possession on his own line just after Huddersfield had seen a pass of their own to ground – gifted Ukuma Ta’ai an easy score for the big Tongan.
Lee Gaskell produced some class with a bold cross-field kick from a scrum to furnish George with his second only for Luke Robinson to instantly reply as Huddersfield showed some slick handling to break from deep.
Danny Brough then put Brett Ferres thundering through to set up Chris Bailey and the hosts added another on the hooter via McGillvary’s first, though Leroy Cudjoe may have palmed Brough’s kick forward in the build-up.
Trailing 26-16 at the break, another Giants mistake saw Kearney smartly get on the outside of Cudjoe to score just 55 seconds into the second period but Lowes’s side could not sustain any momentum from thereon in.
Huddersfield, instead, brought some measure of control to their game to ensure they bounced back from the previous week’s loss at Castleford.
England second-row Ferres – a World Club Challenge winner as a teenager with Bradford in 2006 – demonstrated great strength again to twist over for another try and then another former Bulls player, Joe Wardle, ripped possession from George to race in from 65m.
McGillvary added the next two and, though Kearney created a huge cheer by adding his second in front of the visiting support, it was Ta’ai who rounded off the scoring with his brace at the end.
Cudjoe, kicking despite the return of regular marksman Brough, slotted six goals.
Bradford, meanwhile, clearly wanting to bring some good news for their supporters, announced this morning that Gaskell, the lively stand-off who featured in the 2010 Grand Final for St Helens, and Dale Ferguson, the Scotland second-row who was a big part of Huddersfield’s success last season, have both re-signed for next season and 2016.
Each should excel in the Championship – Gaskell was one of Bradford’s better players here, while Ferguson will be keen to impress having endured an injury-hit first campaign at Odsal.
Huddersfield Giants: Connor; McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Broughton; Brough, Robinson; Crabtree, Wood, Kaufusi, Ferres, Ta’ai, Lawrence. Substitutes: Kopczak, Bailey, Patrick, Mullally.
Bradford Bulls: Kearney; Foster, Arundel, Purtell, George; Gaskell, Gale; Manuokafoa, O’Brien, Fakir, Olbison, Walker, Donaldson. Substitutes: Sidlow, Mellor, Pitts, Addy.
Referee: C Leatherbarrow,