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A couple of decades ago this would have been a worthy Challenge Cup Final, but in 2024 it was a round four clash to determine who would move forwards into the four-game round five and a chance to take on a Super League side as Bradford hosted Widnes in an all-Championship affair.

The two sides have never actually met in a Challenge Cup Final although they did meet twice in the Championship in 2023 with honours being shared at a win apiece, but Widnes exited the competition at this stage last year at the hands of Dewsbury, Bradford progressing to round five where they lost to Halifax.

The Bulls were favourites for the win with the Vikings having been given a fourteen-point start on the handicap coupon.

It was the Vikings who opened the scoring through a Tom Gilmore penalty kick from thirty metres after a high Bradford tackle.

A bad mistake in the Widnes defence, knocking on a kick through the middle and gifting possession back to the Bulls before a kick to the corner which was collected by Kieran Gill who scored in the corner. Jordan Lilley hit the target from wide for a 6-2 lead.

Two minutes after the opening try, Mark Fleming took out a Bradford player without the ball and the Vikings centre was sent to the sinbin.

The Vikings survived their one-man disadvantage for the required ten minutes, but the Bulls were dominating without being able to get over the whitewash and extend their lead.

On thirty-three, against the run of play, Joe Lyons took a Tom Gilmore infield kick to collect and ground to level the scores and when Gilmore added the extras it was Widnes who were back in the lead having defended for almost twenty minutes.

It was a first half where defences had been on top but one in which the Vikings defence had done most of the work as they scrambled to keep their line intact against a relentless Bulls attack.

Widnes extended their lead four minutes after the restart when a Gilmore grubber on the outside of his boot was taken by Lloyd Roby to score. Gilmore, increasingly becoming Bradford’s nemesis, added the conversion for 14-6.

The try scorer Roby blotted his copy book on forty-eight when he was sinbinned for tackling a player in the air, the door back ajar for the Bulls.

A Billy Jowitt kick and chase just before the hour mark brought the Bulls back into the game as he bemused the Vikings defence and span off the post pad to ground. Lilley

On sixty-five the visitors extended the lead to six points as Jordan Johnstone put in a short pass to Sam Wilde to dot down for the third Widnes try of the afternoon. Gilmore hit the mark again and the Bulls now needed to score twice with thirteen minutes of the game remaining.

Two minutes before the final hooter, the Vikings put the result beyond any doubt when Ryan Ince was provider for Joe Edge to walk in unopposed to score from five metres. Gilmore’s kick was the icing on the cake as the Bulls fans were silenced.

The Bulls have only themselves to blame for today’s loss and their exit from the Challenge Cup as they failed to take advantage of an extra man for a quarter of the game, and long periods camped deep in the Vikings half. Widnes were brilliant in defence and took their opportunities when they arose for a stunning victory against the odds and the expectations of the bookies and the pundits. Widnes into the hat for the fifth round, the Bulls left licking their wounds.

Bradford Bulls: McGowan, Myers, Arundel, Gill (T), Taufua, Jowitt (T), Lilley (2G), Doro, Souter, Lawrence, Davies, Butler, Hallas. Subs: Okord, Smith, Appo, Flanagan. 18th Man: Oakes.

Widnes Vikings: Roby (T, SB on 48), Butt, Fleming (SB on 17), Edge (T), Ince, Lyons, Gilmore (T, 4G), Field, Fozard, Murray, Lloyd, Wilde (T), Gregson.  Subs: Johnstone, Roberts, Bent, Walker. 18th Man: Brookes.

Half-Time: 6-8.

Full-Time: 12-24.

Score Progression: 0-2, 4-2, 6-2, (SB), 6-6, 6-8 : HT: 6-12, 6-14, (SB), 10-14, 12-14, 12-18, 12-20, 12-24 :FT.

Lead Exchanges: Widnes – Bradford – Square - Widnes.

Referee:  Ben Thaler.

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Posted by RLFANS News Hound on Sun 25th Feb 2024 2:15 PM | Views : 4633 | Replies : 3 | BACK TO STORIES