SLXVI/3: Crusaders 26-30 Bradford Bulls (final)

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The Crusaders remain on -2 engage Super League points after a disappointing outing against the Bradford Bulls, who dominated the forward battle for the majority of the game.

Despite the victory Bulls’ coach Mick Potter will have been dismayed by the sight of Heath Lestrange being helped from the field in the closing minutes with what looked to be a severe ankle injury.

Bradford enjoyed the better of a scrappy opening stanza. Their forward strength allowing them to take an 18-6 lead into the break despite a plethora of handling errors.

Unsurprisingly the Bulls were first on the scoreboard, the lead after 10-minutes, with prop Andy Lynch ploughing over from close range; Patrick Ah Van converted.

However both sides had issues holding onto the ball in an error strewn first quarter, with the Crusaders capitalizing on a Bulls turnover in their own 20 to level the scores. Michael Witt stepping and ducking inside a tackle to score by the posts, leaving Clinton Schifcofske an easy conversion.

The Bulls remained the stronger of the two sides up front though and Shad Royston’s powerful angled run typified that; bouncing out of that tackle to score by the right post. Ah Van converted for a 12-6 Bulls lead on 30 minutes.

A Bulls’ error from the kickoff gifted the home side a great chance to hit back quickly but desperate defence and side-to-side passing saw the chance dissipate.

A refusal to let the ball die in the tackle after a cross-field kick, saw the Bulls’ Shaun Ainscough on hand to take the final pass and score the visitors’ third try, again converted by Ah Van. Bulls led 18-6 at the break.

Bulls’ forward dominance continued into the second half with Matt Diskin forcing his way over on the power-play to extend the visitor’s lead; Ah Van tagged on the extra points.

Gareth Thomas took matters into his own hands on 46 minutes, making an angled 15 meter run to the left corner and crashing through a two man tackle for the touchdown to make it 10-24.

And Bradford had to dig deep to defend concerted Crusader pressure on their line; albeit aided by a couple of penalties against the visitors’.

The Bulls effectively put the game away on the hour mark. Heath Lestrange on hand to score after he accidentally deflected Thomas’ pass ‘in the tackle’. Ah Van converted for a 30-10 lead.

Although the Crusaders replied through a Ben Sammut try, converted by Schifcofske they were never going to over haul the Bulls’ lead in the closing 10 minutes.

Or were they?

Hard working veteran, Schifcofske, somehow forced his way over at the right corner for a try, but was unable to convert from the touchline. But he did convert from the same place moments later after Tony Martin raced in for a late consolation score.