TWO late tries by winger Dalton Grant flattered Bradford Bulls in a 30-12 win at Odsal which was more competitive than the score suggests.
Oldham’s best spells were in the build-up to half-time, when they trailed 12-0, and early in the second half when Kyran Johnson and Craig Briscoe scored tries to put the Roughyeds choir in full voice.
It was then, with Bulls only 18-12 ahead, that Paul Crook had a try under the sticks chalked off for offside after the Oldham skipper had chased down Dave Hewitt’s excellent cross-kick with the outside of his ‘wrong’ (right) foot.
Had that effort been allowed to stand the whole balance of the game would have changed with the scores locked up at 18-18 .
In the event, Bulls immediately stretched their lead to 20-12 with a penalty goal, their fourth, and then finished things off with those late touchdowns by Grant.
For much of the game Roughyeds were again below their best, conceding too many penalties, making too many errors in possession and executing poorly when they did get a sniff of the Bulls line.
Matt Reid had a game he will quickly want to forget, putting down a couple of Johnson passes when he could have gone into the clear deep inside the Bulls 20-metre zone.
He wasn’t on his own, though, in the handling error count on a night when Roughyeds were expected to play much better in various aspects of the game — a point not lost on coach Scott Naylor in his post-match media interview.
Having said that there were long periods of the game when the visitors had to work overtime on defence — the cause of that much of their own doing — and at the other end of the field Luke Nelmes, Matty Wilkinson, Phil Joy and Paul Crook were all held up over the Bulls line.
On another occasion only a Bulls defender’s stretched out arm enabled him to get a hand to a Crook pass that would otherwise have put Danny Langtree through for a certain try near the end of the first half.
It wasn’t all bad from Roughyeds’ point of view by any means, but they were their own worst enemies at times, especially in conceding 15 penalties and twice receiving a team warning, the first time, surprisingly, after Bradford had been penalised four times in a row and Crook had been clattered late, an incident which was later put on report after the intervention of a touchjudge.
There was an early sign of the respect Bradford had for Oldham’s renowned defence when Joe Keys landed a 12th-minute penalty goal — the first of four from a home side that clearly had instructions to capitalise whenever points were offered to them on a plate.
Oldham were nervous early on, unforced errors providing Bradford with loads of field position which enabled them to go further ahead when Keys chipped the ball behind the defensive line into the in-goal area and Minchella got to it first. Keys goaled for an 8-0 lead.
It was 30 minutes before Bulls erred in possession for the first time and that was one of the biggest differences between the sides as John Kear’s men went in at half-time with a 12-0 lead thanks to two more Keys penalties.
In the run-up to the interval Roughyeds mounted attack after attack on the Bulls line, but the home side survived several of Oldham’s back-to-back sets.
After what Scott Naylor described as a “rant and a rave” in the dressing room, Roughyeds resumed in much more resilient mood and it took them only a couple of sets to get back into the game with a lovely try by Johnson which Crook goaled from wide out on the right.
They were again pressing forward relentlessly when Bulls hit them hard on the counter because the visitors’ kick-chasers failed to wrap up Gregg McNally. He was allowed to run across field towards Oldham’s right edge before straightening up and finding the visitors short on numbers on that side.
With support from Keys and Ethan Ryan, the Bulls counter-attacked with speed in space and Dane Chisholm was left with the simple task of racing in for the long-range try — a superb team try which could easily have knocked the stuffing out of Oldham.
It didn’t. Refusing to lie down, they hit back immediately. Langtree, Oldham’s most penetrative forward, bust two or three tackles on an inside break and Briscoe went with him to score his first try for the club. Crook goaled, 18-12, game on and Oldham on the front foot now and going well.
Bulls were wobbly at that stage and Roughyeds believed they had scored again when Dave Hewitt’s cross kick dropped nicely under the posts for the supporting Crook to collect and go in.
Fans and players celebrated but after what seemed like ages the ‘try’ was disallowed for offside after referee and touchjudge had been in consultation.
It was another massive blow for Roughyeds, who were on top at that stage and would have fancied their chances at 18-18.
Instead, they were soon 20-12 down because the next Bulls attack produced yet another penalty and this time Lee Smith goaled after Dave Eccleston cleanly collected a high kick under pressure. The penalty was awarded because it was ruled that a Bulls challenger had been illegally impeded.
Still not done, Roughyeds went close again from Joy and Crook on the back of Langtree’s one-on-one steal.
But in the end they were finally undone by two late tries for Dalton Grant — the first from Chisholm’s crosskick that beat Ben West in flight and the second after West had taken a knock and Roughyeds were slow to regroup on the short side at a Bulls scrum.
The home side spotted it, exposed it and Grant was left with a walk-in.
Bulls: McNally; Grant, Gibson, Smith, Ryan; Keys, Chisholm; Crossley, Hallas, Bustin, Garside, Minchella, Milton. Subs: Peltier, Flanagan, Wood, Johnson.
Oldham: Johnson; Eccleston, Holmes, Reid, West; Crook, Hewitt; Joy, Hughes, Neal, Bridge, Langtree, Spencer. Subs: Briscoe, Wilkinson, Nelmes, Bent.
Ref: N Bennett; Att: 4, 036