Unbeaten French record offers ray of hope for wounded Bulls

If concerned Bradford Bulls fans need one crumb of comfort to hold on to, they can always look positively at their impressive record in Perpignan.

On the back of all the traumatic off-field drama this term, most supporters will be glad simply to have a game to attend in the south of France this afternoon.

After all, beset by financial woe, their future seemed positively flimsy for much of the summer.

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But, such has been the spirit and camaraderie of their embattled squad, they quickly overcame a six-point deduction for entering administration and battled back into the top eight.

Then came the arrival of new owners in the shape of Omar Khan and Gerry Sutcliffe a week ago and all seemed fine in the world once more.

However, less than two hours after introducing themselves to the delirious Odsal crowd, those saviours were staring into the abyss of a record-breaking Super League defeat against Hull FC.

That 70-6 embarrassment, played out to a live televised audience, meant stunned Bulls were edged out of the play-off spots 24 hours later by seemingly unstoppable Wakefield.

Given this weekend’s final round of fixtures it was obvious who the bookmakers would fancy to go on and complete the job; Wakefield, on a six-game winning run head to an abject Salford side who have lost the very same number of fixtures consecutively.

Bradford, meanwhile, venture to Stade Gilbert Brutus to face a bruising Catalan side intent on securing the win which would cement their top-four berth.

Only Wigan and St Helens have prospered in the Pyrenees this season, so it is easy to understand why Bradford’s chances have again been written off.

Given the much-admired Catalan coach Trent Robinson yesterday announced he is leaving for Sydney City Roosters at the end of this campaign, his players will also be desperate to send him off on a high.

Little wonder they are given a 16-point start on the handicap coupon.

However, let us not forget the aforementioned history of Bradford in Perpigan; the West Yorkshire club are the only team never to lose a Super League game there, an impressive run that dates back six years.

Full-back Brett Kearney, pictured, has featured in the last couple, scoring a try in the 36-14 win two years ago and also featuring in last term’s fierce 8-8 draw.

If Wakefield slip up, another such draw would be enough for the Bulls to sneak back in but he acknowledges their destiny is out of their own hands. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, the Australian conceded: “Performance wise it was really poor against Hull.

“They were good and came and played a very intense game. We just didn’t go with them. Our plan is to play finals football this year and I think Hull showed where we’ve got to be to do that.

“We’ve got this week in France to try and win and try and force our way in there.

“Anything could yet happen but we know we’re up against it.”

But considering the strain of the pressure they have been playing under – the Bulls were in administration from June 26 until Khan’s arrival and still do not know whether they will be in Super League next term – their achievements thus far have been commendable.

Yet this Bradford side have demanded certain levels of performance from themselves and know they have to respond after the Hull debacle.

Kearney, 28, insists the development of the takeover had no negative effect on their performance.

“We hadn’t really talked about it, to be honest,” he said.

“On the Friday night we saw things happening on Twitter but without confirmation so we were still playing it by another rumour, of which there has been plenty.

“Before the game we heard the new blokes (Khan and Sutcliffe) go on the field but it wasn‘t spoken about in the changing rooms – game day is business day and, unfortunately, we didn’t even do that up to scratch.”

Frustratingly, before Bradford flew out to France yesterday, there was still no word from the RFL that they had actually formally granted the new owners their membership of the governing body.

It was expected to be ratified earlier in the week once Khan had provided some last pieces of paperwork but, as yet, there is no such approval.

Kearney said: “When I know it’s sorted 100 per cent I think it’ll be a relief. There’s a bit more of a smile but there’s still a bit hanging over us.”

Whatever the outcome in Perpignan today, Bradford’s players can be rightly proud of their sterling efforts this term.

Those loyal fans will simply hope they get at least one more chance to see them operating in style as, undeniably, many will depart come the end of this tumultuous season.