Rugby League: Drop of class from Hobbs

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Bradford Northern. .19

Castleford . . . . .12

BRADFORD survived their own fallibility to take advantage of Castleford's failure to punish them in the Regal Trophy semi-final at Valley Parade.

An inspired burst of three tries in eight minutes midway through the first half set up a final against Wigan at Elland Road on 23 January, but Bradford know they will not be let off so lightly by those opponents if they offer them the chances they gave Castleford.

Wigan put 70 points past Northern in the Challenge Cup semi-final last season and, while Northern are an improved side, they cannot afford to put out the same welcome mat they did in the first 20 minutes yesterday.

Castleford could have been well in front after a series of handling errors kept them on the attack throughout the first quarter. They showed just how wasteful they can be in this mood when they spurned a glorious chance in the 18th minute, Tawera Nikau and Lee Crooks ripping the defence apart and St John Ellis putting a completely unnecessary pass forward to Mike Ford.

That let-off persuaded Bradford that they had ridden their luck long enough. They proceeded to give Castleford a short, sharp lesson in finishing. With their first real attack, Roy Powell split the Castleford defence, David Heron arrived in support and Neil Summers scored the try. On their second incursion, three minutes later, the outstanding Karl Fairbank fed Jon Hamer and Steve McGowan this time finished the job.

The game was effectively over when Deryck Fox sent Hobbs in for a try from which Fox landed his third conversion. A game which had been tilting Castleford's way had lurched violently in the opposite direction.

They finally took one of the scoring chances that continued to come their way when Crooks got a miraculous tumbling pass to Tony Smith before half-time, and 15 minutes from the end, Simon Middleton scrambled over in the corner. But Hobbs had taken out the insurance of a drop goal which meant Castleford still needed two tries. That was too much to ask.

If just a couple of their chances had been taken, it could have ended differently. Bradford, as Wigan will discover, defend doggedly. That played a part in keeping Castleford at bay, but the losers really have themselves to blame.

Bradford Northern: D Watson; T Marchant, S McGowan, D Shelford, R Simpson; N Summers, D Fox; D Hobbs, B Noble (T Clark, 52 min), J Hamer (P Medley, 39 min), R Powell, K Fairbank, D Heron. Manager: P Fox.

Castleford: S Middleton; St J Ellis, R Blackmore, T Smith, J Wray (G Steadman, 56 min); P Coyne, M Ford; L Crooks, C Watson, K England (D Sampson, 29 min), T Morrison, M Ketteridge, T Nikau. Manager: D Van De Velde.

Referee: I Ollerton (Wigan).

Scorers: Summers/Fox (try/goal, 20 min, 6-0); McGown/Fox (try/goal, 23 min, 12-0); Hobbs/ Fox (try/goal, 28 min, 18-0); Smith/Crooks (try/ goal, 37 min, 18-6); Hobbs (drop, 42 min, 19-6); Middleton/Crooks (try/goal, 65 min, 19-12).

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