Leigh Centurions’ hopes of a first victory at Odsal for 25 years disappeared in a disappointing second half fade-out as the Bulls scored 14 unanswered points to take the spoils from a feisty, penalty-littered encounter.
Leigh Centurions head coach John Duffy pulled no punches in his post-match summary and ordered his players in for an extra training session as they prepare for next Sunday’s Coral Challenge Cup-tie at Sheffield Eagles.
Duffy said: “Firstly I’d just like to apologise to our fans. Coming across and paying £28 to watch that. From myself down we owe the fans and I take full responsibility for that performance in the second half. I haven’t seen anything like that in quite a while.
“Our travelling fans were again superb so I have to apologise to them. We knew the officials would have a part to play in the game and we played right into the hands of that. Bradford stayed disciplined and took their chances when they came.
“We were just dumb. All second half. We need to be better than that and that is ultimately my fault and I take full responsibility for that second half. When we did stick to our game plan in the first half it looked pretty easy, but we didn’t follow instructions that were being sent on the field and we gifted Bradford field position. They’ve got a fantastic coach and a good group of players and they capitalised on that.
“We’ve got to work hard. I’ve told the boys we’re in tomorrow. We normally have our recovery session on a Monday but we’re in. We owe these fans something back for that.”
Sam Brooks ploughed over by the side of the posts to give Leigh an early lead before Bradford hit back with quick-fire tries by Jake Webster and Matthew Storton as Rowan Milnes pulled the creative strings. Jonny Pownall dived over in the corner from a long Daniel Richardson pass to level at 10-10 after a thrilling first quarter.
Leigh wasted several good opportunities as they dominated possession for the remainder of the half and had only a Richardson penalty to show for their efforts. But Elliot Minchella levelled the scores at 12-12 just before half-time with another penalty.
The second half went from bad to worse for the visitors after Pownall was sin-binned for dissent to a touch-judge. They were briefly down to 11 men as Liam Hood joined him in the sin bin, Webster accompanying him after a flare-up.
Ethan Ryan somehow found the space to acrobatically dive in at the corner flag to give the Bulls the lead as Leigh’s attacking plays bit the dust in the face of a determined Bulls rearguard.
Bradford sealed the game with two long range tries after Leigh attacks broke down. Stand-in halfback Matty Wildie, normally a hooker, raced virtually the length of the field for the game’s decisive score just after the hour-mark as six successive penalties against them took a toll on Leigh’s defence.
Late in the game Leigh had six penalties out of seven in their favour as the disjointed nature of a scrappy game continued. But they failed to take advantage and another long-range breakaway try, this time from ex-Leigh player Rhys Evans sealed the Bulls win and saw the respective teams locked on eight points after eight Betfred Championship games.
Bradford Bulls: Ethan Ryan; David Foggin-Johnston, Jake Webster, Ross Oakes, Rhys Evans; Rowan Milnes, Matty Wildie; Liam Kirk, Sam Hallas, Steve Crossley, Matthew Storton, Connor Farrell, Elliot Minchella.
Interchange: Ashley Gibson, James Green, George Flanagan, Mikey Wood.
Tries: Webster (8), Storton (13), Ryan (50), Wildie (62), Evans (71);
Goals: Minchella 2/ 5, Milnes 1/ 1.
Sin bin: Webster (49).
Leigh Centurions: Gregg McNally; Jonny Pownall, Jack Higginson, Iain Thornley, Stefan Marsh; Daniel Richardson, Josh Woods; Luke Douglas, Micky Higham (capt), Sam Brooks, Toby Adamson, James Bentley, Luke Adamson.
Interchange: Liam Hood, Joe Cator, Tom Spencer, Jake Emmitt.
Tries: Brooks (5), Pownall (20);
Goals: Richardson 2/ 3.
Sin bin: Pownall (43), Hood (49).
Referee: Tom Grant;
Penalty count: 14-12.