Bradford Bulls 28-20 Keighley Cougars Match Report by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
KEIGHLEY Cougars failed to keep hold of the Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy in a fiery encounter in freezing conditions at Odsal.
Referee Liam Staveley produced 4 red cards and 2 yellows in a game that will be best remembered for all the wrong reasons.
“For me pre-season friendlies about the lessons you learn as you progress so the positives for me were we showed a lot of togetherness, a lot of fight, a lot of toughness and a lot of desire,” said Craig Lingard.
“I’m left scratching my head at the penalty count but we’ve got adapt to that because we ended up having to do a lot of extra defending and I’m pleased with the defending for vast parts of that game.
“We played the majority of the game with 12 or 11 men and despite that our goal-line defence was very good but when you’re numerically disadvantaged the pressure will get to you eventually and that’s what happened.”
The Cougars opened the scoring when Ritchie Hawkyard linked up with Benn Hardcastle to expose a gap within the Bulls defensive line and Hamish Barnes raced through to dive over.
Lingard’s side then become their own worst enemy as indiscipline and a lopsided penalty count began to take its toll.
The Bulls first levelled the scores when they made use of numbers on the overlap to send Alex Brown over in the corner.
Indiscipline then left Keighley penned within their own 20 metres for a prolonged spell and Brandon Pickersgill darted through to touch down beneath the uprights.
The visitors made sure they would go into the interval level though when a carbon copy of the opening try saw Hawkyard exposed the Bulls once more to put Barnes in for a second.
The game then began to heat up despite the blizzard that engulfed Odsal as a late shot on Matty Beharrell sparked the first of a number of unsavoury incidents with Hawkyard sent to the sin-bin.
The half then finished with handbags in back play and despite the arrival of the touch judge onto the pitch the referee allowed play to continue but Barnes couldn’t take advantage despite breaking downfield.
Bradford got off to the best possible start in the second half as on the back of a penalty, Liam Johnson found the line.
The Cougars drew back level though with a superb try after a Benn Hardcastle kick was charged down, Billy Gaylor used the free play to kick to the corner where Harry Aaronson showed great agility to stay in touch and get over the line.
The game then began to completely break down with Samir Tahraoui initially sin-binned for an incident in the tackle before having the colour of his card changed from yellow to red after retaliating to words from Elliot Minchella.
The Bulls then sealed the victory with two quick fire tries with Minchella scoring on the back of a penalty that left Keighley placed on a team warning before Joe Keyes broke the line and put Johnson’s second on a plate.
The games big talking point then came with three minutes left on the clock, all 25 players became involved in a mass brawl that led to a further three dismissals.
Minchella and Ryan Wright both saw red for their part in the punch-up with Ethan Ryan following suit after being dismissed for a dangerous ‘Superman’ punch over the top of the initial coming together.
Andy Gabriel made sure the final say was the Cougars as he touched down a superb diving effort in the corner on the sound of the full-time hooter.