Monday, 19 March 2007

Bulls clinch thriller at The Stoop

Quins RL fell to their third consecutive defeat at the Stoop on Saturday, going down 22 – 36 to Super League pace setters Bradford Bulls. Although much of the shine from the side’s form in the opening three rounds has now faded, the game itself was much closer than the score line suggests and there was much about the match that will leave Brian McDermott rueing the fact that his side didn’t get at least a point from the encounter.

It was Bradford who were quickest out of the traps with forwards Jamie Langley and Glenn Morrison powering over the first two tries of the game in typical Bulls fashion. Two conversions from Paul Deacon left the away team looking imperious sitting on a 12 point lead with a quarter of the game gone.

A string of dubious decision from referee Phil Bentham, who seemed unconcerned with keeping the visitors onside for much of the match, were to place Quins on the back-foot equally as much as the imposing physical presence the Bulls brought to the game. Bentham’s inconsistency; particularly to the area of the ball playing the man, was to mar his performance throughout; and from very early on the signals were clear that the home side were not likely to get a fair go.

Quins finally got on the scoreboard around the half hour mark when a good passage of play saw Paul Sykes cross the line; unfortunately Sykes had less luck with the boot as he was to miss the first of four attempted conversions. A few minutes later skipper Rob Purdham broke away from the Bulls defence following some strong running from second-row Jonny Grayshon. The scores were to remain at 8 – 12 going into half-time.

In the second-half it was the home side who were to get off the mark first, Mark McLinden setting up Purdham for his second try, to pull the scores level at 12 all. Ten minutes into the half the Quins were to hit the front for the first time when winger Jon Wells stood up Bulls fullback Michael Platt to be first to Scott Hill’s deft kick.

However, the Quins lead was not to last, with the lead swinging back and forth in the third quarter of the match. It was the impressive Morrison with his second try, goaled by Deacon, who was to snatch back the lead, only for Sykes to intercept a sloppy pass from Iestyn Harris to launch a near full length of the field run for his second try. A switch of kicker saw Purdham collect Quins only conversion of the game.

Harris was to make amends for his mistake three minutes later, picking up the Bulls fourth try and what would prove to be the decisive score with Deacon’s goal pushing them out to 22 - 24. Five minutes later Lesley Vainikolo, who had otherwise looked out of sorts, collected a loose pass to run in a long-range effort under the sticks effectively ending Quins hopes. A try in the final ten minutes from Platt rounded off an effective Bulls performance.

Whilst a third consecutive defeat will be hard to take for the Quins, there were considerable improvements in attack, particularly compared to recent matches where the side has failed to deliver in the second-half of games. The final result shows that Bradford scored only one more try than Quins, with the remaining margin attributable to a poor return from place kicks.

But where attack showed improvement the defence took a step backwards with the Quins allowing the Bulls too much space to offload in the tackle and frequently failing to wrap-up the ball close to the line. The size and power of the Bradford size, particularly in the forwards, was always going to provide a serious test of the defence, although poor officiating from Bentham arguably exacerbated Quins troubles.

Coach McDermott, will now look to shore up the defensive weaknesses highlighted whilst hoping that the improvements in attack carry through to Friday night’s game away at Leeds Rhinos.

Harlequins RL: (8) 22
Tries: Sykes 2, Purdham 2, Wells
Goals: Purdham

Bradford: (12) 36
Tries: Langley, Morrison 2, Harris, Vainikolo, Platt
Goals: Deacon 6

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