Bradford Bulls 35 Dewsbury Rams 14 - Tenants beat hosts as Danny Brough celebrates milestone
DEWSBURY Rams handed Bradford Bulls’ Danny Brough a guard of honour ahead of his 500th club game last night but they gifted him very little else as the Championship rivals played out an enthralling contest.
Bradford, with Steve Crossley leading up front and winger David Foggin-Johnston producing some stunning moments, emerged victorious in the end but a bruising encounter was far closer than the scoreline suggested.
Dewsbury had won both of their opening league games and, despite trailing 28-6 at the break, showed great character and desire to apply plenty of pressure on their opponents’ line in the second period.
However, John Kear’s side demonstrated excellent defensive prowess to thwart them –twice Dewsbury were over the line but could not ground the ball – although it was no surprise that Brough slotted a 66th-minute drop goal just to ensure there was never any danger of a late rally.
Dewsbury centre Adam Ryder did eventually cross for their third try but Joe Brown – from Brough’s high kick – finished things off for Bradford who claimed the Jeff Grayshon Memorial Trophy, played in honour of the former Great Britain forward who represented both clubs with such distinction and died from coronavirus in March.
Grayshon famously played on until the age of 45 before retiring and, at 38, Brough is nudging towards that figure.
However, the former Man of Steel was not even the oldest player on the field last night; Dewsbury stand-off Paul Sykes turns 40 in August while his half-back partner Liam Finn is not far behind both at 37.
All three of the former Super League and international playmakers showed flashes of their class here but there was plenty to enjoy from younger members of both sides, too, not least Bradford’s rugged 20-year-old prop Ebon Skutt and Dewsbury’s two-try winger Andy Gabriel.
Bradford opened the scoring after just eight minutes when Ben Evans’s ball steal secured them possession and Brad England finished off a fine break from Jordan Lilley, the former Leeds Rhinos half-back who was particularly sharp early on.
Former Scotland captain Brough converted and added a penalty soon after, although he initially struggled to find his range with his field kicking.
Twice he kicked down the throat of Dewsbury full-back Joe Martin and also once with Gabriel to leave him berating himself.
As competitive as they were, the Rams did not mount any real attacking threat until around the quarter mark when former Wakefield Trinity forward Chris Annakin bustled over from close range although he was held up and also pulled back for an obstruction.
It was a critical mistake; in the resulting set, their opponents moved 14-0 ahead when Brough did finally get a kick right. His hoisted crossfield effort to the left was palmed down perfectly by Foggin-Johnston for Ross Oakes to cruise over.
As they awaited the restart, Bradford’s Steve Crossley told his team-mates: “Don’t get bored.”
There was no chance of that; Sykes sailed the restart dead and Bulls were immediately on the attack again, Brough coming away with another penalty goal after Jason Walton’s high tackle on a side-stepping Brandon Pickersgill.
Dewsbury – classed as the “visitors” at Tetley’s Stadium as this was tenants Bradford’s “home” game – got off the mark when Gabriel rose wonderfully to claim Finn’s kick, Sykes improving.
However, Kear’s side responded with a brilliant try, Foggin-Johnston weaving clear from his own goalline up to halfway before sending Brown over for a dazzling effort.
Even when Brough saw a kick charged down it fell in his side’s favour, Aaron Murphy picking up the scraps to escape down the left and produce a lovely flick pass inside for the veteran scrum-half to celebrate his milestone game with a try and that healthy interval lead.
But then came Dewsbury’s big second half effort, Sykes and Martin combining wonderfully to put Gabriel in for his second in the 44th minute.
They needed to score next to stand a chance but, unfortunately, saw Brough’s restart bounce into touch.
From there, Bradford dug in and ensured they delivered their second win of the season.
Bradford Bulls: Pickersgill; Brown, R Evans, R Oakes, Foggin-Johnston; Lilley, Brough; Nzoungou, Doyle, Crossley, England, Murphy, B Evans. Substitutes: Walker, Scurr, Fleming, Rooks.
Dewsbury Rams: Martin; Gabriel, Ryder, Tomlinson, W Oakes; Sykes, Finn; Morris, Butterworth, Garratt, Walton, Knowles, Annakin. Substitutes: Day, Liu, Magrin, Hall.
Referee: Scott Mikalauskas (RFL).
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