A sublime display by Steve Menzies,the grand old man of Super League, took the Catalans to victory in a game in which they were a man short for almost a half. The dismissal of David Ferriol after 44 minutesshould have tilted a fascinating match Bradford's way, but with the 37-year-old Australian at the helm the French side were able tosteady the ship and maintain their impressive recent record.
Fittingly, the first try of the afternoon was scored by a Frenchman – Bradford's former Dragons captain, Olivier Elima. The Test forward took Marc Herbert's neat, short pass and burst through after eight minutes.
The Catalans' response was led by another man demonstrating the old adage that your former players know how to hurt you. The Bulls let Menzies go, but the oldest player in Super League showed that he still has plenty to offer. A world-class second-rower for most of the past two decades, he was switched to stand-off yesterday and he took to it as though it was the most natural thing in the world.
After 13 minutes he set up a try for Clint Greenshields with an arcing run that drew the defence and then a perfect pass. Ten minutes later, after Andy Lynch had failed to pick up a low pass from Gareth Raynor, Menzies again found Greenshields coming into the line and the full-back put Damien Blanch over in the corner.
Just as impressive as those two pieces of work was the way Menzies got across to make a superb cover- tackle on Ben Jeffries, when the Bradford stand-off was threatening to go all the way to the line after taking an intercept. Menzies is determined to play past his 38th birthday next year, and on this form he could become Super League's first 40-year-old.
For all that, his old club had their noses ahead of his present one at half-time, thanks to two late penalties from Patrick Ah Van.
That lead did not last long, Sébastien Raguin finding his way through a forest of legs after Scott Dureau had been stopped short. What looked like being the pivotal moment of the match came soon after that, when Ferriol was sent off for a high tackle on James Donaldson and Ah Van kicked the equalising penalty. Worse was to follow for the Dragons. as Greenshields lost the ball trying to bring it away from his line, subjecting his team to a spell of ferocious pressure that ended with Tom Burgess touching down.
The Catalans were anything but cowed, though, and they drew level with a try from from another former Bull, Ian Henderson. Brett Kearney had a try disallowed for Bradford, for double movement, before an inspired pass from Menzies to Lopeni Paea saw Dureau score. When Blanch broke away for his second, the 12 men were on their way to a remarkable win.
Greenshields clinched it with a long-range effort, making Raynor's last-minute try irrelevant.
Bradford Bulls: Kearney; Crookes, Ah Van, Platt, Raynor; Jeffries, Herbert; Lynch, Diskin, Hargreaves, Elima, Whitehead, Kopczak. Substitutes used: Scruton, Donaldson, Addy, Burgess.
Catalan Dragons: Greenshields; Blanch, Baile, Millard, Vaccari; Menzies, Dureau; Ferriol, Henderson, Fakir, Raguin, Paea, Mounis. Substitutes used: Casty, Martins, Baitieri, Pelissier.
Referee: P Bentham (Warrington).