Bulls edge Boxing Day battle
Posted: Thursday 26th December 2019 - 1:19 PM
The Tigers went down 20-14 to Bradford in a friendly at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
In a first outing for both sides in pre-season, Castleford looked the stronger side in the first half but were left to rue a series of missed opportunities as the Bulls overpowered a younger Tigers line-up after break before sealing the win with a try five minutes from time.
Head coach Daryl Powell opted to rest a plethora star players for the traditional Boxing Day fixture, instead naming a mixed squad of promising academy and reserves players supplemented with a handful of first team regulars, the stand-out selections being the presence of new signings Tyla Hepi, Danny Richardson and Derrell Olpherts in the starting line-up.
Richardson linked up with Calum Turner in the halves and the ex-St Helens man saw plenty of the ball down the right edge in the first quarter with his kicking game being the highlight as he forced two repeat sets with short grubbers into the in-goal.
The pressure eventually told when Richardson opened the scoring in the 16th minute following a nice break downfield from Greg Eden after he took Daniel Smith’s offload into space deep inside Bulls territory. With the opposition scrambling on the back foot, Richardson opted to run the ball on the last tackle and powered through two defenders to touch down for a 4-0 lead.
Cas were well on top by this stage but struggled for fluency in attack with several new combinations – Jacques O’Neill forcing another drop out from dummy half as they stayed patient – but several half chances came and went as the Tigers’ distribution strayed in the face of a committed Bulls defence.
At the other end, Bradford got the try their spirit deserved when Joe Brown beat Eden to a clever kick out wide to ensure both teams went into half-time level at 4-4, the positives for Powell’s side being the performance of Richardson and pleasing efforts from Hepi and Olpherts, who both looked powerful with ball in hand.
The second half saw several of the substitutes enter the field for Cas – Eden, Turner, James Clare and Daniel Smith the only of last year’s first team remaining to add a touch of experience – but Hepi continued to impress with an all-action performance in the middle and he had a hand in his side’s second try of the afternoon, offloading out of the tackle to give young hooker Dec Gregory a bit of space and he sent Joe Summers through a gap for a nicely-worked try that Turner converted.
Bradford hit back again as half back Rowan Milnes dummied over from close range to tie the scores after a third set in a row pressing the Tigers try line, but the young Fords weren't going to take a backward step and showed their passion as tempers flared in midfield, young Cas prop Sam Hall and Bradford front-rower Sam Barlow sin binned for their role in the altercation.
It was a really competitive encounter by this stage but the Tigers nudged themselves back in front when half back Tom Schofield quickly counter-attacked from a Bradford mistake, throwing a pin-point pass for speedster Jacob Doyle to dive over just inside the corner flag a set after Turner had been held up over the line.
Turner couldn’t convert this time and neither could Milnes after Brown went in out wide as the Bulls responded once again to level at 14-14, but the momentum was with the away side as they pushed for a late winner.
To their credit, Cas held them at bay several times, holding them up twice and earning a respite from the pressure as Turner and centre Brad Graham did excellently to take high kicks to the corner, but a try was coming and Bulls hooker Sam Hallas crashed over from close range late on to seal the spoils.
Full Time: Castleford Tigers 14-20 Bradford Bulls
Eden, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Graham, Clare, Turner, Richardson, Hepi, O’Neill, Millington, Sene-Lefao, Summers, Smith
Gregory, Donnelly, Schofield, Hall, Robb, Martin, Peachey, Fella, Doyle, Attley, Storey
Tries: Richardson, Summers, Doyle
Conversions: Turner (1/2), Richardson (0/1)
Sin Bin: Hall
Pickersgill, Johnson, Evans, Oakes, Brown, Milnes, Lilley, England, Hallas, Crossley, Rooks, Gallagher, Kirk
Shackleton, Foggin-Johnston, Doyle, Foster, Scurr, Smith, Barlow
Tries: Brown (2), Milnes, Hallas
Conversions: Milnes (2/4)
Sin Bin: Barlow
*Match report by Matt Holden
**Photography by Melanie Allatt Photography
***Golden Gamble number: 12001
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