Bulls end Reds' season

New Zealand Test centre Shontayne Hape scored four tries as defending Super League champions Bradford Bulls hammered play-off debutants Salford City Reds 52-6 in their elimination play-off at the Grattan Stadium.

The Bulls hit a rich vein of form in a nine-try rout to earn a home semi-final against Warrington Wolves next Saturday and keep alive their hopes of a sixth successive Grand Final appearance.

Bradford?s newly-crowned world light welterweight champion Junior Witter watched the Bulls deliver a brutal knockout blow to a Salford side that slipped below the high standards set in their best-ever Super League season.

Had it been a boxing match, it would surely have been stopped long before the end, with the Reds out-muscled and out-classed by a Bradford team that at last began to resemble last year?s championship-winning side.

There was an early end for Salford?s chief playmaker Andrew Dunemann, who was forced off just 10 minutes into his farewell appearance after succumbing to two heavy knocks.

Reds forwards Chris Charles and Sean Rutgerson also bowed out in disappointing circumstances as Karl Harrison?s men crumbled under an early onslaught by the rampant Bulls.

There were shades of last year?s record 71-0 play-off win over Hull FC as the Bulls re-discovered the awesome touch.

They set off at a point a minute and were in firm control by half-time when they led 22-0.

Great Britain international Paul Deacon was the Reds? tormentor-in-chief, twice forcing them to drop out before they had handled the ball and putting in the kicks that produced two tries in the first eight minutes.

First full-back Michael Withers leapt high above the Salford defence to gather the scrum-half?s ?bomb? and then loose forward Brett Ferres pounced on a loose ball after Reds full-back Karl Fitzpatrick fumbled Deacon?s grubber kick.

The expert marksman also converted both tries from identical positions to put his side 12-0 ahead.

In between the scores, the Bulls were indebted to a wonderful last-ditch tackle from Lesley Vainikolo, who raced over from the left wing to haul Salford centre Aaron Moule into touch in the right corner following a superb break from skipper Malcolm Alker.

But it was a rare raid by the visitors, who looked shell-shocked by Bradford?s blistering start, and their cause was not helped by the loss of Dunemann which left Harrison with little room for manoeuvre with his substitutes.

The Bulls were simply on fire and they extended their lead on 17 minutes when Hape took Iestyn Harris? accurate pass to cut through a gap for his first try and Deacon added his third goal.

Influential hooker Terry Newton then made the most of a neat offload by substitute Paul Johnson to get Hape over for his second try to make it 22-0 by the break.

Hape completed his first hat-trick of the season two minutes into the second half when he took Deacon?s pass to squeeze over at the corner but Salford ensured there would be no whitewash when winger David Hodgson gathered Harris? kick and sprinted 80 metres for a try.

Charles added the conversion but Bradford were simply irresistible and ran in four further tries in the final quarter.

A fine break from Brad Meyers got fellow front rower Andy Lynch over for a deserved score and second rower Chris McKenna juggled with Harris? pass before touching down.

Harris also got 17-year-old forward Sam Burgess over for a try before Hape surged over for his fourth touchdown, to which Deacon added his eighth goal from nine attempts.

Bradford Bulls (22) 52. Tries: Withers, Ferres, Hape 4, Lynch, McKenna, Burgess. Goals: Deacon 8.

Salford City Reds (0) 6. Tries: Hodgson. Goals: Charles.

Bradford Bulls: Withers, Bai, B. Harris, Hape, Vainikolo, I. Harris, Deacon, Vagana, Newton, Lynch, McKenna, Meyers, Ferres. Replacements: Johnson, Burgess, Henderson, Pryce.

Salford City Reds: Fitzpatrick, Hodgson, McGuinness, Moule, Wilshere, Dunemann, Robinson, Coley, Alker, Rutgerson, Finnigan, Littler, Charles. Replacements: Highton, Adamson, Haggerty, Brocklehurst.

Referee: A Klein

Att: 8,611

Source: superleague.co.uk

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