Sunday, 17 September 2017

That joke isn't funny any more...

Bradford 72 - Hornets 16

On the way to witness the final death-throes of Bullmania, we passed a circus. But whatever clownery was taking place inside that big top was nothing compared to the base-comedy that was to unfold at Odsal.

Referee Andy Sweet turned in a grossly unfunny slapstick performance that had everything -including a game where the wheels fell off.

Indeed, his loss of control and farcical decision to reduce Hornets to ten men 15 minutes in gave Bradford the opportunity to work the numbers - scoring four converted tries and killing the game as a contest with over an hour remaining.

Hornets had started brightly - an early penalty took them upfield and a bustling break by Lee Mitchell had defenders scrambling, only for the last pass to float agonisingly beyond Kev Penny’s reach.

Bradford responded with some direct football and on 6 minutes Bentley (playing his last game before he takes his ridiculous haircut to St Helens) scrambled in at the corner on the last tackle. In keeping with the comedy theme, Aston hooked the conversion attempt hilariously wide.

Bradford then coughed a spiralling kick-off and Hornets were gifted a penalty on the back of it, but loose hands on the first tackle let the Bulls off the hook.

On 10 minutes Halafihi finished off a sweeping 90 metre move - scoring off an outrageous forward pass. Aston on target for 10-nil.

And then Mr Sweet had his brain fart. Yes, Gav Bennion clattered bulls kicker Keyes somewhat tardily, but Bradford responded by piling in on Jo Taira! Having pulled the ensuing brawl apart Mr Sweet sent Bennion and Taira to cool off for ten minutes. Bradford’s career irritant Scott Moore was also given 10 minutes to consider what happened to his career.

Immediately Bradford shifted the ball wide where Chris Riley landed a bell-ringing shot on his opposite number, incurring the attention of a picky touch-judge. From the resulting penalty Bradford worked the numerical advantage for Kirk to score. Aston the extras for 16 nil

Hornets were then reduced to 10 - Lewis Foster dismissed for dissent - and Bradford used the advantage to its maximum. Tries for Hallas, Oakes and Ryan stretched Bradford’s lead out to a ridiculous 34-nil. The home fans positively tumescent - just like the old days, but with 17,000 fewer fans.

On the half hour - and back to the full complement - Hornets strode upfield where Jordan Case slipped under the black dot off a peach of a Jo Taira pass. Yatesey the two and the Hornets contingent at last with something to cheer.

This heralded a period of Hornets pressure - Kev Penny producing a miracle catch - but Bradford benefited from a loose pass to clear their lines.

With half time approaching, Mr Sweet showed he was as gullible as he was hilarious: Peltier milking  a penalty, Caro the try. And with the hooter imminent, the piece de resistance. Mr Sweet gifting Bradford a penalty after the ball was dropped cold in the tackle, Keyes tapping the ball to himself in back-play more in hope than anticipation and, with neither the defence nor the referee set, ran 50 metres to plant the ball under the black dot. Mr Sweet eventually catching up to give the try. Just ridiculous.

Half-time 46-6: only the Bradford fans laughing.

The second half was quite possibly the longest 40 minutes of the season. Bradford kept the scoreboard ticking over, Hornets found the space to score two well-taken tries: the first finished acrobatically in the corner by Chris Riley and converted from the whitewash by Danny Yates; the second a beautifully weighted kick from Lewis Palfrey gathered and touched down by Jack Holmes.

Additional Bradford tries came from Peltier, Moore and Aston to blow out the scoreline and bring this farce to an end.

But you have to look at the bigger picture. This was a Hornets side shorn of half a dozen first-choice players - and of the lads who took the field, a fair majority were patched-up to play.

And, while the Bradford announcer screamed of ‘bringing the glory back to Bradford’, the reality is that they’re heading for Hemel and we’re not. Indeed. it’ll be interesting to see how many of yesterday’s 3,000 Bulls fans in attendance will still be there in a year’s time. Certainly, they had fewer fans singing yesterday than Hornets.

So here we are. the 2017 season has been and gone. The hope at the outset was always  that we would finish 3rd bottom. As it was, we finished 9th - exceeding expectations (if only slightly). Despite the naysayers, the pundits and the gobshites who had us nailed-on for relegation, Hornets proved everyone wrong. In the end, we scrapped, scrambled and clawed our way to another season in the Championship.

As Hornets look to build from here, Bradford’s future looks less certain. The likelihood is that Geoff Toovey will leave, followed by at least half of this team. Were a more pointless 70 points ever scored?

Finally, a big shout to the Hornets travelling support who have been superb all season. Though we may have come in a taxi, at least next season it won’t be a taxi to South Wales. See ya Bradford.