Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Harris stars in Bulls win
Iestyn Harris ended a frustrating week on a high with the match-winning try as Bradford held off a spirited fightback from Salford to record a 24-18 win at The Willows.
The Bulls were clinging to a tenuous 12-6 lead when the 29-year-old Welsh dual-code international forced his way over for the all-important try after re-gathering his own grubber kick on the last tackle.
Harris produced an impressive overall performance in an otherwise undistinguished display by his team.
Bradford led 24-6 midway when Leon Pryce added a fourth try midway through the second half but they were twice reduced to 12 men, with Michael Withers and Stuart Reardon sent to the sin bin for separate offences, and they were left to desperately hang on for the win.
There was little hint of the drama to come as the visitors made a dream start with two tries in the first 11 minutes.
There were echoes of their 58-0 victory at Salford two months ago when Karl Pryce and Paul Deacon, who both registered hat-tricks that day, claimed early touchdowns against a shell-shocked Reds defence.
It looked so easy as Pryce, recalled to the side only because of injury to Karl Pratt, raced onto Deacon?s grubber kick, profiting from the kindest of bounces, to open the scoring on eight minutes and the Reds defence opened up invitingly for Deacon three minutes later for the former Great Britain scrum-half to dummy his way over.
Deacon, who scored 26 points in his side?s earlier rout of the Reds, added both conversions as the visitors threatened a repeat.
Salford were not as bad as the score suggested, though, and they pulled a try back after 24 minutes when stand-off Cliff Beverley created an overlap by offloading from a gang-tackle and Chris Charles and ex-Bradford player Nathan McAvoy worked the ball out for Junior Langi to touch down.
It was the first try in English football for Langi, who was recalled to the side at the expense of Bradford loan winger Andy Smith.
The momentum had swung in favour of Salford throughout the second quarter and they were first to put points on the board in the second half, courtesy of Charles? 40-metre penalty goal which cut the deficit to six points.
Bradford were forced to defend desperately as the enthusiastic home side pressed for the equaliser and it was against the run of play when Iestyn Harris scored his side?s third try, with Deacon?s third conversion making it 18-6.
Still Salford came back and they were given a boost after 54 minutes when Bradford were reduced to 12 men with the sin-binning of Withers for the latest in a series of play-the-ball infringements.
The Bulls were far from impressive but they demonstrated more clinical finishing on 59 minutes when substitute Leon Pryce gathered a loose ball on halfway and showed a clean pair of heels to the desperate cover on an arcing run to the corner.
With Deacon off the field, Iestyn Harris took over as marksman and landed the conversion with a magnificent curled kick from the touchline to put his side into what looked to be an unassailable 24-6 lead.
When Reardon was yellow-carded for a blatant obstruction, Salford seized their opportunity to turn pressure into points with two tries in five minutes.
Forward Andy Coley stretched out of a two-man tackle to plant the ball over the line and then full-back Karl Fitzpatrick finished off a break by Mitchell Stringer. Charles added both goals but Bradford held on for a precious, if flattering, victory.
Salford: Fitzpatrick, Hodgson, Littler, Sibbit, Langi, Beverley, Robinson, Rutgerson, Alker, Stringer, Shipway, McAvoy, Charles. Replacements: Coley, Haggerty, Baldwin, Hartley.
Bradford: Withers, Reardon, B. Harris, Johnson, K. Pryce, I. Harris, Deacon, Vagana, Henderson, Fielden, Peacock, Meyers, Parker. Replacements: Hape, L. Pryce, Lynch, Cook.
Salford: (4) 18. Tries: Langi, Coley, Fitzpatrick. Goals: Charles 3.
Bradford: (12) 24. Tries: K. Pryce, Deacon, I. Harris, L. Pryce. Goals: Deacon 3, I. Harris.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury)
Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for the above review