Eighth placed Bradford Bulls had a Championship game against a Swinton Lions in twelfth spot as both sides knew that a win was crucial for them to keep alive their play-off hopes as the season edges towards its mid-season.
Bradford were the favourites with the bookies, with few pundits giving Swinton much hope despite the Bulls recent coaching issues and six changes made to last week´s Bulls starting line-up.
Lee Greenwood was interim Bulls coach, but many supporters were happy that past coaching messiah Brian Noble was also involved in the set up as an advisor.
A pinpoint Declan Patton grubber, on the back of two penalties, allowed Kieran Gill to pounce on the ball and ground to give the Bulls an early lead. Patton added the conversion from fifteen metres to the side of the posts for a 6-0 lead after eight minutes.
It took two minutes to add the second score after a Brad England dummy and run in to the line from thirty metres out. Patton added the extras from the shadow of the sticks for a 12-0 lead in just ten minutes, the perfect start for the home side.
Jack Walker was taken out off the ball on fourteen, and Patton kicked his third goal of the afternoon.
Swinton grabbed an intercept try on twenty-seven with Jayden Hatton picking the Walker pass and sprinting sixty-five metres to score under the sticks. Dan Abram added the conversion to reduce the arrears to eight points.
A simple try for the Bulls, Nathan Mason on debut, picking up a loose ball and going over the line under the sticks to give Patton the easiest of kicks to make it 20-6 on the half hour.
David Foggin-Johnston was on hand to make more Bulls pressure pay with points as the Swinton defence opened and allowed him over to score. Patton was again on target with a more difficult conversion for 26-6, the points already in the bag for the Bulls.
Swinton kicked a penalty goal after the half time hooter to reduce the arrears to three converted tries at the interval.
Salford loan player Amir Bourouh gave Swinton the perfect start to the second half as the visitors made the most of a Bulls´ error and hit double figures. Abram was on target from wide and the margin was back down to twelve points.
After charging down a Bulls kick, Swinton went eighty metres to score with Rhodri Lloyd going in for the try to silence the home supporters. Abram was again on target and from nowhere, the Lions were back in the game with a stunning opening five minutes of the second half, the home side stunned.
Bradford were put on a team warning by the referee for repeated infringements as the penalty count mounted.
Within two minutes Swinton were within two as Lloyd got his second try in as many minutes as he grounded another grubber kick. A shellshocked Bulls defence watched Abrams add another goal to level the scores, a massive half time lead squandered in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
Bradford grabbed the next try, with Walker the provider as Foggin-Johnston got his second of the afternoon. It had been a frantic period of play as the points rained in. Patton was on target from wide for 32-26.
Lilley, Jowitt and Appo combined to put Mason over for his second to extend the Bulls lead and when Patton kicked his seventh goal of the afternoon it was 38-26, it had been a massive period of play with attacks on top as defences crumbled.
The tries just kept coming, this time Kevin Appo dragging three defenders over the line to score under the sticks, the Swinton fightback a distant memory with fifty-seven minutes on the clock. Patton added an eighth goal for 44-26.
Both sides took a breather from scoring for fifteen minutes, but on seventy-three Wesley Bruines broke the deadlock as he grabbed a fifth Swinton try which was again converted by Abram, the deficit back down to twelve points with six minutes remaining.
Four minutes from time the Lions were in again with Bruines getting his second inside three minutes as he dotted down under the sticks. Abram added his seventh conversion to reduce the arrears to six points again to set up a nail-biting finish to the game.
The hooter sounded victory for the Bulls, by a margin of just six points, after a humdinger of a game
Bradford move up a place to go past Keighley into seventh spot and level on league points with sixth placed Widnes Vikings. Swinton´s woes continue, and they are on the cusp of being dragged into a relegation battle down the bottom of the table with Barrow and Newcastle. Both sides now have a weekend off to recuperate as the Challenge Cup takes centre stage.
Bradford Bulls: Walker, Blackmore, Butler, Gill (T), Foggin-Johnston (2T), Jowitt, Patton (8G), Baldwinson, Lilley, Rogers, England (T), Wallace, Johnson. Subs: Scurr, Appo (T), Flanagan Snr, Mason (2T). 18th Man: Turgut.
Swinton Lions: Butt, Hatton (T), Spedding, Bruines (2T), Romeo, Olds, Gibson, Baxter, Eaves, Norman, Badrock, Lloyd (2T), Case. Subs: Bourouh (T), Abram (7G), Whitehead, Parnaby. 18th Man: .
Score Progression: 4-0, 6-0, 10-0, 12-0, 14-0, 14-4, 14-6, 18-6, 20-6, 24-6, 26-6, 26-8 : HT: 26-12, 26-14, 26-18, 26-20, 26-24, 26-26, 30-26, 32-26, 36-26, 38-26, 42-26, 44-26, 44-30, 44-32, 44-36, 44-38 : FT.
Lead Exchanges: Bradford - Square - Bradford.
Referee: Cameron Worsley.