Matthew Hadden was the toast of the Crown Oil Arena with a decisive try in the closing stages of the Championship game between Rochdale Hornets and Bradford Bulls.
Home scrum-half Danny Yates was also a key to victory with six goals and a steadying hand on proceedings as Rochdale claimed a notable league double over the Bulls..
Much of the first five minutes passed without incident as the teams battled for the upper hand. A Jordan Lilley half break gave the Bulls a brief opportunity but Cameron Smith threw the pass too hard for Widnes dual man Ed Chamberlain.
At the other end Jono Smith and Gary Middlehurst teased the defence, but a handling error gave chance of a free play attack and Jonathan Campbell was put in touch following a thrilling chase to a kick.
The first penalty went the Bulls way after big inroads were made on the right by Omari Caro.
Joe Keyes went close to the line but the Bulls got too excited and a hard pass from Chamberlain found the touchline after ten minutes.
Hornets ran through the middle and Gavin Bennion almost opened the defence for Yates but the pass drifted marginally forward.
James Bentley thought he had given the Bulls the lead after 14 minutes but referee Callum Straw instead ruled the try out.
Rochdale knocked the ball on during their next possession and the Bulls roared forward with Lilley getting through the middle for Bentley to score by the posts after 17 minutes. Former London Bronco Oscar Thomas goaled and the visitors led 6-0.
The Bulls made it two tries in three minutes when Ed Chapelhow drove through from close range. Thomas goaled and the visitors led 12-0.
Bentley then had the ball stolen in a one-on-one tackle with Anthony Walker. Rochdale again threatened with Middlehurst but Ben Moores’ kick only found Lilley. The Bulls however could only hang onto the ball for three tackles and Rochdale went close through loanee Lewis Foster.
The game halted whilst Chamberlain was patched up and Bradford were unable to hold Fijian Jovilis Taira from close range. He opened the Hornets account after 26 minutes. Danny Yates goaled and the hosts were on the board – 6-12.
With half an hour gone Lilley was held up over the line. He then forced a drop out with an astute kick that kept the pressure on.
A loose pass by Scott Moore invited Hornets back and Lewis Galbraith split the defence from the scrum. He was supported by Yates and by the end of the set a wide kick from yates had Caro under all kinds of pressure.
He spilled possession to give Rochdale a chance to launch a further attack. The Bulls defence was peppered a couple of times around the posts but held firm.
In to stoppage time at the end of the first half Bradford were gifted their fifth penalty of the half and Thomas put the goal over to make it 14-6 to the Bulls.
Another error from Moore was then compounded when the Bulls were penalised giving Hornets a final chance of hoisting points in the first half. Only Caro’s hand denied a try to Massam.
Hornets kept up the heat and the two teams erupted with an all in skirmish after Hornets forced a drop out. Despite 26 players being involved no penalty or cards came.
The drop out eventually took place and Taira tore through from forty metres, beating two players on his way to the line. Yates goaled and it was 12-14, a score that remained until half-time, a half that lasted 55 minutes.
Bradford got the second half away to a solid start while Hornets looked to build with a break from Yates. He knocked on however and it was left to Declan Kay to save Hornets with a good pick up around his boot laces.
A twenty metre burst from Lilley plied pressure and a short kick ricocheted off Rochdale legs and cannoned into touch. Referee Callum Straw ruled a scrum with Hornets feed and the hosts came eighty metres on their set.
Nine minutes into the second half a set move left saw Middlehurst find a flying Lewis Galbraith and he sailed 40 metres to the line. Yates added the extras from a difficult position and Hornets led 18-14.
A fortunate call went Bradford’s way with Campbell surging 50 metres after a fumble. Rob Massam did well to close down Chamberlain and Caro while Bentley was held up on the other side of the field.
The game was evenly poised before the hour when Thomas knocked on forty metres from the Rochdale line.
Then after 60 minutes a rare penalty for Hornets was nudged over by Danny Yates to put six points between the teams.
Bradford had an opportunity, winning field position and then the ball back before a crunching tackle by Lee Mitchell dislodged the ball. However a 40-20 attempt from Hornets sailed out on the full, giving the Bulls a further opportunity.
Campbell raided from dummy half before Moore came up with another error close to the line. Hornets were certainly rocking but their will in defence was there for all to see.
Rochdale then came downfield with some good interplays. Lewis Hatton stopped close from a Foster pass. Moores then fired a ball into Mitchell who went into the posts without the ball, dislodging the protective padding in the process.
That gave both sides a breather and Bradford came downfield with Foster chasing back to claim a tricky kick by Keyes.
Rochdale conceded a penalty heading into the last ten minutes and Bradford had field position again. A clever kick by Lilley was fumbled by Rochdale and the Bulls were still inside the home twenty. Peltier was held up over the line but Bradford were handed a penalty.
Kirk drove headlong and the ball came right where Cameron Smith was held. Bradford won a drop out and committed Hornets defence kept them out. A further penalty saw Hornets placed on a team warning.
A flying Foster tackle denied Thomas and a grubber kick at the other end landed with Daniel Yates. A fifty metre surge by Massam put Hornets on thr front foot and Brandon Wilkinson charged down Yates attempted drop goal. From the drop out Chamberlain did everything to get under it but he knocked on to give a set to Rochdale.
Rochdale then claimed the decisive try when Matthew Hadden took an innovative kick from Ben Moores and Yates added his fifth goal to make it 26-14 to Hornets.
As Bradford faded a further penalty was put over by Yates to stretch the advantage to 28-14 and a famous victory for Rochdale over Bradford.
Hornets: Declan Kay, Jake Eccleston, Jordan Case, Lewis Galbraith, Rob Massam; Lewis Foster, Daniel Yates; Anthony Walker, Ben Moores, Gavin Bennion, Jono Smith, Josh Crowley, Gary Middlehurst. Subs: Lewis Hatton, Jovilisi Taira, Matthew Hadden, Lee Mitchell.
Bulls: Oscar Thomas, Jonathan Campbell, Ross Oakes, Ed Chamberlain, Omari Caro; Jordan Lilley, Joe Keyes; Liam Kirk, Scott Moore, Ross Peltier, Cameron Smith, James Bentley, Sam Hallas. Subs: James Mendeika, Branan Wilkinson, Edward Chapelhow, James Davies.
Referee: Callum Straw.