L'Estrange pulls the strings as defiant Bradford stay in hunt for play-offs

Bradford 38 Widnes 26
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The Independent Online

Bradford continued their defiant, if precarious, survival campaign yesterday with victory in a contest in which attack always outshone defence. Heath L'Estrange scored his first try for 15 months and set up another four minutes later to put his side in control on the hour mark.

"All my trials, Lord, soon be over," sang the male voice choir before the first match since Super League declared its intention to buy the stricken Bulls.

Not as soon as they would like, perhaps. Players and staff will clock on today still facing an uncertain future, dependent upon the governing body running them until a long-term rescuer arrives. In the meantime, they went into this game with realistic hopes, despite their six point deduction, of a place in the play-offs.

Those hopes looked rather illusory during the first 10 minutes, as Widnes underlined their improvement by taking a 12-point lead, through tries from the former Bradford player, Patrick Ah Van, and another from Ben Davies.

The Bulls roused themselves to reply through Michael Platt, but the Vikings restored their advantage when Danny Craven dummied his way over.The rest of the first 40 minutes belonged to Bradford, with tries from Brett Kearney, Shaun Ainscough and Ben Jeffries – his 100th in Super League.

With the impressive Keith Lulia running riot in the centres, the Bulls seemed to be on their way to another victory to sustain their morale, but, on the stroke of half-time, Widnes's Rhys Hanbury wrestled his way through some weak tackling that was typical of both sides' defensive efforts, to cut their lead to two points.

The second half was not as frenetic and gave the impression that the side scoring first would go on to win it. So it proved, with L'Estrange the pivotal player. First, he burrowed his way over from close range and then supplied the pass for Platt to claim his second.

Ah Van kept the Vikings' interest alive, but after the Bulls had failed with two drop-goal attempts Ainscough's second sealed the win.Not even a sudden deluge could dampen the enthusiasm of 10,000 Bradford supporters.

Bradford Kearney; Ainscough, Platt, Lulia, Pryoe; Jeffries, Gale; Kopczak, L'Estrange, Hargreaves, Olbison, Whitehead, Langley. Substitutes used Burgess, Manuokafoa, Walker, Addy.

Widnes Phelps; Isa, Marsh, Dean, Ah Van; Craven, Hanbury; Davies, McShane, Pickersgill, Winterstein, Allen, Cahill. Substitutes used Clarke, Kite, Haggerty, Gerrard.

Referee S Ganson (St Helens).