It was third against fourth in the fourth round of the Betfred Championship Division One as the Bradford Bulls welcomed Hunslet to Odsal Stadium. Both sides came into the game with two wins from their two outings so far and it promised to be a close game.
It was the Bulls first home league game for 189 days and they hoped to build on their big win against Keighley a fortnight ago. The sun was out to welcome John Kears side back home and the expectation of the home supporters was high.
There was good early pressure from Hunslet who showed some imagination in attack. With ten mionutes on the clock they opened the scoring when Joel Gibson was the spare man on the overlap to take a pass at the end of a fast cross-field move. Joe Sanderson added the extras for a 6-0 away lead.
Sam Hallas hit back on fourteen when he used his guile to avoid the tacklers and go over the line close to the left upright. Joe Keyes added the conversion to tie the sides up.
A great tackle from Crossley forced the Hunslet error and on the last tackle of the next set Hallas took the ball close to the line, threw the dummy, and dove over by the right upright. It was a simple conversion for Keyes and the Bulls had the lead having weathered the early Hunslet onslaught.
A mess up in the Hunslet defence allowed Dalton Grant to benefit from a Keyes high kick to pick up the loose ball and go over in the corner on the half hour. Keyes was unable to add the conversion from the right touchline, narrowly to the left of the uprights.
Five minutes into the second half and the Bull were in for their third of the afternoon after Elliot Minchella and Ethan Ryan had combined in an excellent break down the left win. Moving the ball inside there was a pinpoint cross-field kick from Keyes which was caught on the full by Grant to walk two metres to ground. Keyes couldn’t add the extras but the home side were 20-6 ahead.
On fifty-three Dane Chisholm reached for the line to score one-handed to edge the Bulls closer to the two points. Keyes was again unable to add the conversion, now just two from five on the afternoon.
On sixty-three the Bulls put a drop out into touch and from the resulting penalty Hunslet got their second of the afternoon when Josh Jordan-Roberts took a Joe Sanderson crash ball to go over. Sanderson kicked the extras in-off the upright for 12-24.
On sixty-eight minutes a Keyes cross-field kick was collected by Dalton Grant evade the winger and go over to get his hat-trick. Keyes upped his conversion rate to fifty-percent and it was 30-12 with ten minutes left on the clock.
Receiving a penalty for lying on with three minutes left on the clock Keyes kicked his fourth of the afternoon for 32-12.
With the exception of the opening ten minutes, the Bulls were never really in any trouble against a decent enough Hunslet side who had plenty of effort and committment but just lacked a little finesse. The Bulls will be delighted at the result on their return home and also very pleased with a crowd of just over three and a half thousand.
Onwards to a busy Easter for the Bulls with a game against Oldham and their re-arranged Challenge Cup game.
Bulls: McNally, Ryan, Butler-Fleming, Gibson, Grant (3T), Keyes (4G), Chisholm (T), Bustin, Hallas (2T), Crossley, Garside, Minchella, Milton. Subs: Flanagan, Wood, Peltier, Johnson.
Hunslet: Watson, Johnston F, Ashton, Chappell, Gibson (T), Sanderson (2G), Blagbrough, Lee, Nicholson, Jordan-Roberts (T), Straugher, Mackay. Subs: Haley, Reed, Barnett, Roberts.