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Rugby League

Ainscough hat-trick helps Bulls forget their troubles

Bradford 46 Castleford 32

Bradford put the trauma over their uncertain future to one side last night with a win that lifts them into the top eight – at the expense of the champions, Leeds.

The Bulls were always ahead in a wide-open game of 14 tries, but gave worrying hints of throwing away their advantage in the second half. It was not until Shaun Ainscough competed his hat-trick in the 75th minute that the points were safe.

Cas showed some good attacking instincts, especially through the revived Rangi Chase, but simply missed too many tackles to win any game.

Given their deepening financial problems – with £1.25m now apparently needed to get them through to the end of the season – it would be excusable if the Bulls often looked distracted.

There was nothing wrong with their focus, however, as they played to their strengths to take an early lead. Ben Jeffries kicked to the towering Karl Pryce and his clever, back-hand pass released Keith Lulia. Two minutes later, a lovely combination between Jeffries and Luke Gale opened a gap for Brett Kearney and you would have thought Bradford didn't have a care in the world.

That changed when Jordan Thompson took Chase's long pass to hit back for Cas as the tries mounted. The scoring then slowed down slightly after the interval, but Rhys Williams got over for Cas. Three minutes later, he had a second. The alarm bells were ringing as the half wore on. An eight-point lead in such a high-scoring match looked precarious, but Ainscough's third, five minutes from time, made sure.

Bradford Kearney; Ainscough, Lulia, Platt, Pryce; Jeffries, Gale; Manuokafoa, L'Estrange, Hargreaves, Olbison, Bateman, Elima. Substitutes used Sibbit, Whitehead, Burgess, Addy.

Castleford Youngquest; Williams, Turner, Dixon, Griffin; Chase, Orr; Huby, Jones, Jackson, Ferres, Holmes, Mitchell. Substitutes used Walker, Massey, McGoldrick, Millington.

Referee B Thaler (Wakefield).