Bradford sent their loyal supporters home smiling with an emphatic victory over Super League departees Crusaders in their final home game of the season.
The Bulls led by eight as the two sides headed down the tunnel for the half-time but the damage was done for the visitors, just after the restart, when the home side hit with two tries whilst they were down to 12 men.
The game became a stop-start affair in the end with neither side ever looking to take it by the ‘scruff of the neck’.
Bulls boss Mick Potter hailed the performance of winger Patrick Ah Van, who was playing his final game in red, amber and black at Odsal, following his personal points haul of 20.
He said: “Pat (Patrick Ah Van) did well out there, when he ran the pitch he showed he had some good pace and he did well to kick all of his goals.
“It was a good performance from us. I would have preferred us to have kept them at bay for longer periods but it’s good for the fans to see us go out with a win.”
Credit must go to the Crusaders for a good show of spirit despite their difficult circumstances and head coach Iestyn Harris recognised that, as his side face their final week together.
He said: “I thought the guys did well out there. Everyone knows the difficult position we’re are in and that makes it close to impossible in terms of motivating them.
“For us it’s all about getting through the final week. Come Friday we’ll break off and go our separate ways. All we can hope is that the players get jobs and stay in the game.”
Kyle Briggs returned to the Bulls starting line-up for the first time since May as did winger Shaun Ainscough. Chev Walker was named on the bench and he featured for a short period though came through unscathed.
Jarrod Sammut didn’t make a surprise appearance despite flying back from Malta last night. Andy Bracek received a good reception as he made his first ever appearance, from the bench, despite signing for the club back in January.
The Bulls kicked off in style with a try as Ben Jeffries ghosted through completely uncontested to send Oliver Elima under the posts. Ah Van added the conversion and the Bulls had a 6-0 advantage with just two minutes gone.
The visiting Crusaders took little time in posting a response however. Wingman Elliot Kear was taken out following a Lincoln Withers kick through and from the resulting penalty, half-back Lloyd White shrugged off the efforts of Brett Kearney and Danny Addy to touchdown.
Hep Cahill, who was doubtful before kick-off, left the field of play on 17 minutes and headed straight down the tunnel for treatment following a huge collision with the Bulls defence.
Bradford regained the lead just two minutes later when Kearney’s last tackle kick took a ricochet and was regathered by Shaun Ainscough. A quick assault saw the ball fired wired for Elima to cross for his second try.
Unfortunately for Bradford the inevitable error, which has become a sickening characteristic of their season, soon followed. A mix-up allowed Jordan Tansey’s restart to run dead and Crusaders made their opposition pay with some neat hands from Tony Martin to put former Bull Stuart Reardon, over in the corner.
However, the home side bounced back once more. The introduction of Tom Burgess seemed to lift the Odsal crowd and on the back of it, Jeffries’ chip over was perfectly juggled by Kearney as he scored beneath the uprights. Ah Van goaled to give the Bulls a two-try lead.
Nevertheless, the Wrexham-based outfit provided the final pressure of the half. Back-to-back penalties saw them make it deep into the Bulls third but a further test of Aincough’s, in-the-air ability, was unsuccessful as the 21-year-old collected with ease. However, on route to take the quick tap, he was flattened by Ben Flower. Flower was shown yellow and the first-half came to an end.
The Bulls didn’t appear to be in control but the visitors had failed to take any hold, subsequently slipping away.
Bradford began the second period in a similar manner to the first as Craig Kopzcak powered over from close range. Ah Van converted giving the Bulls a 24-10 lead.
Potter’s men were on a roll and they were in again, four minutes later, with arguably the best try of the game. The ball was swept wide to Briggs and he handed Ainscough a brilliant two-man miss pass to touchdown in the corner. Ah Van maintained his 100 per cent record with a brilliant conversion from the touchline.
Ah Van was in action again in, on 55 minutes. He collected an Andy Lynch offload and raced 70 metres, touching down under the sticks, to the delight of the Odsal faithful. All was well on the scoreboard but the Bulls were lacking the killer instinct.
White’s bomb, on the hour, wasn’t dealt with and Peter Lupton gathered to score a somewhat questionable try.
The two sides traded further blows in the following six minutes Lynch scoring for Bradford and a brilliant passing move, crafted by White and Tansey, sent Reardon over the whitewash for his second of the afternoon.
Bradford Bulls: Brett Kearney, Patrick Ah Van, Paul Sykes, Michael Platt, Shaun Ainscough, Ben Jeffries, Kyle Briggs, Andy Lynch, Danny Addy, Bryn Hargreaves, Oliver Elima, Ian Sibbit, Jamie Langley. Subs: Chev Walker, Craig Kopczak, Adam O’Brien.
Tries: Elima (2, 19), Kearney (26, 78), Kopczak (41), Ainscough (46), Ah Van (54), Lynch (67).
Goals: Ah Van 8/8
Crusaders: Clinton Schifcofske, Stuart Reardon, Tony Martin, Vince Mellars, Elliot Kear, Jordan Tansey, Lloyd White, Jordan James, Lincoln Withers, Mark Bryant, Hep Cahill, Jason Chan, Peter Lupton. Subs: Ben Flower, Lee Williams, Paul Johnson, Andy Bracek.
Tries: White (14), Reardon (22, 72), Lupton (58), Martin (80)
Goals: Schifcofske 2/5
Referee: Robert Hicks
Love Rugby League Man of the Match: Brett Kearney – Controlled proceeding from the off, scoring twice.
Sin Bin: Ben Flower (37) – Foul Play