Provident supports the Bradford Bulls

It was looking good last time I wrote for these pages.

Bulls had just hammered Super League’s Salford Red Devils in the Super 8s Qualifiers, setting out their stall to finish in the top three and gain automatic promotion.

But sport has a habit of turning hope into despair and the next two games did just that.

Super 8s Qualifiers

Hull KR went through the Qualifiers with a 100% record and Widnes Vikings finished second. The clashes against both Super League teams were the definition of ‘a game of two halves’.

Bulls competed well in both contests trailing just 14-12 to Widnes at the half and only 12-4 away to Hull KR.

Both top flight teams had shown signs of their pedigree but not many people will have anticipated the Bulls’ second half collapse in both games with Hull KR scoring 36 points after the break and Widnes going six better than that in an eventual
56-12 rout at the Provident Stadium.

Two Wins From Five

Two wins from five and with just two games left it was even looking possible that Jimmy Lowes’ men would miss out on the one off promotion shot that is the Million Pound Game and a tough encounter away to rivals Leigh Centurions awaited.

The ‘collective desire and a willingness to fight for the cause’ that disappeared in the previous two games was back with a bang, though, and Bulls secured a very satisfying 32-16 victory which ensured their place in the season finale and a huge anti-climax for Leigh who had led the Championship for most of the season but had a torrid Super 8s with just one win to their name.

Million Pound Game

“Devastation. Complete and utter devastation.”

That about sums up the 24-16 defeat to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats for me in the final big, one off chance to gain promotion back to Super League at the first time of asking.

 

Bradford Bulls Lined Up
 

A drink or two couldn’t calm my nerves for a very stressful 80 minutes on the Belle Vue Stadium terrace but I and many more of the 2,500 travelling Bulls army definitely needed one or two more to drown our sorrows!

After enjoying most of the early play Bulls looked down and out early in the second half when former player Anthony Mullally went over to make it 12-0 with the conversion, but Jimmy Lowes’ men fought back well.

Two tries within ten minutes from Danny Williams and Matty Blythe brought it back to 12-10. Game on?!

‘Wakey’ crossed again but the Provident Stadium men never gave up pressing their Super League opposition and reined them back in again with Purtell touching down .

Addy converted to make it 18-16 but missed a penalty kick three minutes from the end which could have tied it up and really put Wakefield under pressure.

The outstanding Ferguson then lost the ball and the Wildcats sealed it sending the red, amber and black army home anticipating another season against the likes of Batley and Workington instead of Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors.

 

Bradford Bulls Players trudge off pitch distraught
 

Looking Ahead Positively

On the plus side, the young squad will be better for this season of experience and with the likes of Adrian Purtell, Adam O’Brien, Dale Ferguson and a finally fully fit Lee Gaskell committing themselves to the Club, the spine of team is retained.

There have been a number of new signings, predominantly to beef up the pack. Second rower Kurt Haggerty and Scottish international prop Johnny Walker join from Leigh and Kiwi front rower Mitch Clark (son of former Bulls player Trevor) from Doncaster.

One of the better Championship players Bulls faced last season, in my opinion, was winger Jonny Campbell, and he arrives from Batley Bulldogs adding more strength in depth to full back and wing.

Fixtures Released

Jimmy Lowes’ men should be one of the favourites to contend for a Super 8s spot again and the recently released 2016 fixtures gives them to chance to hit the ground running.

A home opener against Featherstone is followed by trips to un-fancied Whitehaven and newly promoted Swinton.

Then it gets interesting with the big rivals of 2015, Leigh Centurions, visiting the Provident Stadium for an early litmus test of how close season recruits have changed things up for both sides. The corresponding fixture last season was a draw with, as mentioned above, Bulls going on to beat Leigh in the Super 8s.

The 28th May sees Bulls clash with Leigh again, this time on neutral turf at the Summer Bash of Rugby League which is hosted at Blackpool Football Club’s Bloomfield Road stadium.

Last home game of the regular season is against newly promoted Oldham and the Super 8s start on 3rd August. The Million Pound Game takes place on the weekend of 1st October. Let’s hope Bulls don’t need it and get promoted automatically via the Super 8s!

Click here to check out the full fixture list.

Elsewhere

A week after the disappointment of narrowly missing out on promotion, glitz and glammer was the theme for the Club’s End of Season Ball and Player Awards.

Last year over 450 people turned up for this event even after relegation. This year, an incredible 650 guests walked up the red carpet to the marquee on the Provident Stadium pitch and enjoyed a fantastic night of rugby reminiscing, great food and stand out entertainment at one of the biggest events in rugby league!

The dynamo that is Adam O’Brien took the spotlight winning three of the four main awards up for grabs – Players’ Player of the Year, 1863 Members’ Player of the Year and Telegraph & Argus Player of the Year award. Danny Addy won the Coaches’ Player of the Year award.

 

Bradford Bulls Adam O'Brian
 

The Hall of Fame Award, sponsored by Provident, was handed to legend Keith Mumby by former coach Peter Fox, a standing ovation welcoming Mumby to the stage.

Bulls also gained some honours at the Kingstone Press Championship and League 1 Awards, Danny Addy being crowned Championship Player of the Year and the Club being recognised with Project of the Year for their armed forces weekend which honoured our military and raised funds for the Royal British Legion.

 

Bradford Bulls Armed Forces Weekend
 

Head Coach Jimmy Lowes has been on England duty as assistant to Steve McNamara. Lowes helped the men in white overcome the world number one New Zealand team in an exciting 2-1 series win.

The deciding game at Wigan Warriors’ DW Stadium was a much better game than the previous two and former Bradford Bull Elliott Whitehead scored two tries in a 20-14 win to secure the series, their first since 2007.

Finally, the new Bulls away kit for 2016 has been launched and we think it looks great!

 

Bradford Bulls Away Kit

Provident and bulls in 2016

This blog has captured much of the activity and engagement brought to Bulls and rugby league fans in general throughout 2015, and there’ll be more of the same next year!

Check out https://www.facebook.com/supportingbulls for great content, fun and games, and details of all our match day activation, competitions and events.