Rugby League: Bradford battle back to preserve record
Halifax 26 Bradford 30
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Wednesday 28 May 1997
A Halifax side below full strength had played magnificently to build what appeared to be a match-winning lead, but were powerless when Bradford sprang to life, opening a seven-point gap at the top of the table.
Halifax were the last side to beat the Bulls in the League, at the end of last season. Martin Pearson, was their early instigator, starting the move that saw Craig Dean go over in the second minute and then catching the Bradford defence off guard again for the second try.
Stuart Spruce managed to dislodge the ball from Pearson, but only for Carl Gillespie to follow up and touch down. Pearson, who had landed his first conversion, hit the post with his second to leave Halifax 10 points clear.
Bradford were making damaging mistakes and from one of them, Steve McNamara's knock-on at a tap penalty, Halifax took possession for Asa Amone to power his way over. Then it was Jon Scales who allowed Dean's kick to bounce and was left stranded as it sat up for Gillespie to claim his second.
Halifax, were having to absorb tremendous pressure, finally cracking when Brian McDermott stretched out to score a try which McNamara improved.
It was a brief revival, snuffed out when Amone burst through to touch down, Pearson's kick restoring a 20-points lead for Halifax at half-time.
Poor discipline and the penalties they conceded prevented Bradford from making any headway at the start of the second half. They then got a slice of luck, but there was more than a suspicion of a forward pass when they were adjudged to have scored their second try, Simon Knox going over from James Lowes' ball. Lowes was heavily involved, getting under a kick to win possession and supplying Spruce with the scoring pass. Paul Loughlin, kicking in place of the injured McNamara, landed both conversions to bring Bradford back within eight points of the lead.
Spruce then made it three Bradford tries in six minutes when he backed up Danny Peacock's run to take the ball and race over. The Bulls were on the rampage now and only a wonderful tackle from Mike Umaga denied Mike Forshaw the tying score. It was not long delayed, Scales wrestling his way over in the 70th minute and Loughlin hitting the post to leave the scores level. Three minutes later, Loughlin put Bradford ahead for the first time, Glen Tomlinson's rolling kick to the corner for him to dive on it.
Halifax had a final chance to recapture a match that had been cruelly snatched away, but Freti Cuilugi was stopped inches short.
Halifax: Umaga, Tuilagi, Powell, Bouveng, Amone, Pearson, Dean, Harrison, Chester, Jackson, Gillespie, Highon, Moana. Substitutes used: Marshall, Slicker, Seal, Munro.
Bradford: Spruce, Loughlin, Calland, Peacock, Scales, Bradley, Tomlinson, Wittenberg, Lowes, Anderson, Knox, Forshaw, McNamara. Substitutes used: Graham, McDermott, Reihana, Medley.
Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).
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