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The Qualifiers Round 1 – Bradford Bulls v Sheffield Eagles Preview

An interesting game in store at Odsal, the teams are tied at one win apiece after their battles in the regular Kingstone Press Championship season. The Eagles got the better of Bradford in the last game between the two sides but the Bulls hammered their South Yorkshire counterparts on home turf in round 11 of the Kingstone Press Championship.

Last Time Out

The last round of the regular Kingstone Press Championship season for 2015 ended in defeat for Bradford Bulls. They were downed by Halifax at The Shay by 20 points to 16 after going in at half-time 14-0 down. Mitch Cahalane and Ben Heaton got the only tries of the first half on the 11th and 30th minute respectively. Steve Tyrer tagged on the extras on both occasions and even slotted over a penalty goal to give his Fax side a three score lead at the interval. But, in similar fashion to the Sheffield game in round 21, Bradford came back well in the second half. However, unlike the matchup with Sheffield, they hit the front after completing their comeback. It all started in the 44th minute when Jay Pitts touched down. Things got more interesting when Adam Henry crossed the whitewash nine minutes later and got the visitors back to within two points of their opponents. Omari Caro carried on his try-scoring form from the game against Leigh a week earlier as he gave Bradford the lead during the final quarter. Halifax were pressuring their fellow West Yorkshire counterparts until the bitter end and they levelled matters with a penalty goal from Tyrer. When Chev Walker was sent to the sin-bin by referee Joe Cobb on 75 minutes, Halifax could smell blood and they got the winning try a minute after Walker’s departure. Adam O’Brien threw a loose pass and Tyrer got on the end of it before running 40 metres to the try-line in front of a delirious all-Halifax stand.

Sheffield Eagles finished a rather successful Kingstone Press Championship season with a win over London Broncos at The Hive. A game played in horrible conditions, errors were a regular occurrence from both sides. Sheffield were left scoreless in the first half but Wes Naiqama got London on the board after five minutes with what was the only try of the first 40. Ryan Millar, a Birmingham Bulldogs product, debuted for the Eagles in Edgware and he got his first professional try on 42 minutes after a superb cross-field kick from Dominic Brambani. Millar doubled his tally for the day with a calm finish in the corner eight minutes after his first, Pat Walker converted both tries from the touchline. Matt Garside made it two tries apiece with a score for London against his former club, Naiqama added the extras. The Broncos edged in front with a penalty goal from the ever reliable Naiqama but their conservative approach came back to bite them where it hurts when Menzie Yere barged over for the visitors. Walker didn’t convert for Sheffield but the extra two points became irrelevant when Eddie Battye got his first try of the 2015 season with three minutes to spare. Walker made it a two score game with the conversion and third place in the Championship was sealed for Sheffield.

Key Battle

With Lee Gaskell ready to lead his Bradford side into the Qualifiers, the half-back will be a very key part to their potential success in the series. With outside backs being the main focus for signings by Bradford before the deadline, it seems they’re content with Danny Addy partnering Gaskell in the halves. For Sheffield, they have a fully fit squad to pick from so Kyle Briggs, Dominic Brambani, Pat Walker and Cory Aston are the choices for the half-back roles but Walker usually starts at loose forward. Briggs and Brambani have come into some good form during the final rounds of the Championship season so coach Mark Aston may sway with the duo but Aston junior is a wildcard and will be raring to go if called upon.

Prediction

If Bradford are to stake a respectable claim for promotion back to Super League, they will need to win their home games in the Qualifiers and that starts from the beginning against Sheffield. After their loss to the Eagles at the Keepmoat in round 21, Bradford have drawn one and lost one so winning ways need to return or another season in the Championship awaits. Sheffield Eagles will be a full-time club from next season so anything that comes from this season’s Qualifiers is a bonus for the South Yorkshire outfit. Can the current part-timers overturn the Bulls for a second time in 2015? – Bradford by 16

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