The Betfred Championships game of the day was without doubt the clash at Odsal between third placed Bradford Bulls and second placed Featherstone Rovers who were looking to maintain their one hundred percent record and keep up the pressure on a Toulouse Olympique side who are top of the table courtesy of a superior points difference.
The home side had Sam Hallas back in their line-up but were without Aaron Murphy and Thomas Doyle who both had minor injuries keeping them out of the game while Rovers welcomed back Kris Welham but were without the services of Craig Kopczak who was rested.
Despite home advantage the Bulls were the underdogs with the bookies, Featherstone clear favourites to record their thirteenth win of the season with Bradford getting a twelve-point start on the coupon.
It was a great start for the Bulls when Ben Evans proved unstoppable as he blitzed his way down the centre of the field and crashed over under the sticks. Joe Keyes added the conversion for a 6-0 lead after just three minutes.
Bradford were awarded a penalty on seven for dissent by Rovers and Joe Keyes added the extra two points from forty metres out to extend the lead.
Another Keyes penalty on fifteen minutes pushed the Bulls into double digits and a 10-0 lead.
Featherstone were back in the game on twenty-one when Jacob Doyle found the space to dive over in the corner after the Bulls were penalised on their own try line after a small scuffle. Craig Hall added the conversion for 6-10.
Within three Nu Brown levelled the scores on the sixth tackle after the Bulls had kicked off out on the full. The kick was just to the right of the posts and Hall’s kick edged Fev’ into the lead at 12-10.
David Foggin-Johnson took a long Keyes miss-out pass and flew down the wing to go past Gareth Gale to score in the corner. Keyes was unable to add the conversion but in a thrilling afternoon it was the Bulls who were back in charge.
The Bulls returned the ball from the restart with Ant Walker breaking down the middle before finding Hallas in support who drew the full back before passing to the supporting Brandon Pickersgill to go in for the second try in as many minutes. Keyes added the conversion for 20-12 at half time in a see-sawing game.
Featherstone drew first blood in the second half when after forty-five minutes James Harrison crashed through the defensive line to ground from close range. Hall added the conversion for 18-20 and the game was back on.
Harrison got his second, for a quick double, just three minutes later to regain the lead for Rovers and when Hall added his fourth goal of the afternoon it was 24-20 to Fev’ with half an hour of the game remaining.
It was three on the bounce for Rovers as the Bulls defence crumbled and Brown went in for his second of the afternoon. Hall added another conversion, one hundred percent for the afternoon, to put the visitors ten points ahead.
The Bulls just couldn’t get into the second half and after a penalty was awarded to Featherstone on sixty-five, Hall took the opportunity to kick the goal for a twelve-point lead.
Rhys Evans grabbed a lifeline for the Bulls when he took a Pickersgill pass to score in the corner but from the touchline Keyes was unable to add the conversion, the Bulls still eight points adrift with just over ten minutes remaining.
Gareth Gale was sin-binned for a professional foul of a breakaway Keyes, Fev’ down by a man for the remainder of the game.
George Flanagan managed to wriggle his way over the line after a dummy and the substitute took the kick himself to reduce the arrears to just two points with five minutes remaining, the Bulls now on the front foot.
A Dane Chisolm intercept, from a wayward England pass, saw the Fev’ half back run forty metres to score unopposed in the corner. Hall couldn’t add the conversion, but the Featherstone defence held firm for the remaining sixty second for Featherstone to take a 36-30 win and maintain their sensational unbeaten run.
This was a fantastic local derby between two sides playing open rugby and sharing plenty of points between them in a them in a top of the table humdinger of a game. Featherstone march on at the top of the table with a hope that Toulouse will slip up but Bradford can take great heart from a game in which they led for periods and pushed a seemingly unbeatable Featherstone right to the final hooter.
Bradford Bulls: Pickersgill (T), Hamlett, Evans R (T), Oakes, Foggin-Johnston (T), Brown, Keyes (4G), Crossley, Hallas, Fleming, Gallagher, England, Evans B (T). Subs: Flanagan (T, G), Rooks, Scurr, Walker.
Featherstone Rovers: Hall (6G), Doyle (T), Hardcastle, Welham, Gale (SB on 72), Davies, Chisolm (T), Harrison (2T), Brown (2T), Lockwood, Halton, Ferres, McDonnell. Subs: Cooper, Field, Summers, Spence.
Referee: Michael Mannifield.
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 8-0, 10-0, 10-4, 10-6, 10-10, 10-12, 14-12, 18-12, 20-12: HT : 20-16, 20-18, 20-22, 20-24, 20-28, 20-30, 20-32, 24-32, (SB), 28-32, 30-32, 30-36 : FT.