JOHN KEAR’S SIDE BEGAN THEIR 2020 PRE-SEASON CAMPAIGN WITH A 20-14 DEFEAT OF SUPER LEAGUE OUTFIT CASTLEFORD TIGERS AT THE MEND-A-HOSE JUNGLE ON BOXING DAY.
The hosts drew first blood through debutant Danny Richardson before Joe Brown got the first of his brace to level proceedings.
Bradford held firm despite a Castleford onslaught to head into the sheds all square.
Joe Summers crossed early in the second period to re-establish the Tigers’ advantage but the resilient Bulls hit back through the returning Rowan Milnes, who impressed throughout.
Daryl Powell’s side responded to take the lead for a third time – only for an acrobatic effort from Brown and a late barge over from Sam Hallas to steal the show late on.
Bulls boss Kear named six debutants in his matchday line up – with the travelling Bradford faithful getting their first sighting of Sam Barlow, Greg Johnson, Adam Rooks and Anthony England in the red, amber and black – with Sam Smith and Harry Shackleton stepping up from the club’s Academy to make their first team bow.
The opening quarter saw both side’s defensive qualities come to the fore despite the Bulls suffering the setback of Liam Kirk being stretchered off after being concussed in a tackle five minutes into the contest.
It would be Castleford who struck first in a topsy-turvy contest in front of 3,306 spectators – Richardson dancing his way through on his first run out as a Tiger.
The introduction of youngster Ebon Scurr revitalised a Bradford side who began to enjoy possession in Tigers’ territory and they soon found themselves level.
Quick-thinking by Milnes saw him kick over the top of the home defence for the rampaging Brown to race onto and touch down in front of the jubilant Bradford support.
Brown then made a significant impact at the other end of the pitch to stop what seemed a certain Castleford score to keep parity on the half-time hooter.
Summers benefited from clever play by youngster Declan Gregory to touch down next to the sticks with both sides ringing the changes.
Milnes turned provider to scorer soon after, dancing and stepping his way through a scrambling home defence to touch down in his first appearance since suffering a broken leg in June.
A mid-pitch scuffle saw both sides reduced to 12 men – with Sam Barlow wrongly sent to the sin-bin in a case of mistaken identity.
Castleford benefitted from that and scored soon after with Bradford trying to score on the counter – the home side picking up a loose ball from a stray pass for Jacob Doyle to dive over in the corner.
But Bradford would not be deterred and soon levelled for a third time – Pickersgill’s looping pass finding Brown who finished in style for his second of the game.
The visitors dominated the final quarter and their pressure on the Tigers’ line paid off when vice-captain Hallas barged his way over to cap off an impressive afternoon’s work for Kear’s side.
BRADFORD BULLS: Brandon Pickersgill, Greg Johnson, Rhys Evans, Ross Oakes, Joe Brown, Rowan Milnes, Jordan Lilley, Anthony England, Sam Hallas, Steve Crossley, Adam Rooks, Brad Gallagher, Liam Kirk. INTERCHANGES: Sam Barlow, David Foggin-Johnston, Ebon Scurr, Keelan Foster, Sam Smith, Harry Shackleton, Thomas Doyle.
TRIES: Brown (2), Milnes, Hallas
GOALS: Milnes 2/4