Challenge Cup fifth round: Bradford Bulls' comeback knocks Catalan Dragons out
Bradford Bulls overcame a 16-point deficit against Catalan Dragons to secure a 33-20 Tetley's Challenge Cup success.
Last Updated: 27/04/14 11:08pm
The Dragons scored the first three tries of the game, but the Bulls came roaring back with Lee Gaskell and Jamie Foster (two) turning the contest on its head.
Second-half scores from Luke Gale and Adrian Purtell gave Francis Cummins' side breathing room before Gale's late drop-goal clinched the victory.
The Bulls, five times Challenge Cup winners, welcomed back captain Matt Diskin, Adam Sidlow, who was making his 150th career appearance, Foster and Luke George, in addition to new loan signing Jay Pitts.
The Dragons were rocked by the late withdrawal of influential half-back and goal-kicker Thomas Bosc, who limped out of training the day beforehand with a torn calf muscle.
But his absence was hardly noticeable at first as the Perpignan side capitalised on early Bradford errors to score three times in 13 minutes to open a 16-0 lead.
However the Yorkshire outfit, so often on the back foot in recent weeks, regrouped and struck three times themselves in a nine-minute spell to go in at half time leading 18-16.
A huge hit deep in Bradford territory from former Bulls star Elliott Whitehead dislodged the ball from the grasp of Jamal Fakir, who travelled in the opposite direction only last month after an acrimonious split with the Dragons, and Daryl Millard scored from the resulting set to give Catalan the lead after just two minutes.
Another handling error from the home side was punished by Ben Pomeroy, before hesitant Bulls defence gifted another ex-Bradford player, Olivier Elima, a third try and the visitors appeared to be cruising into the next round.
But Bradford staged a staggering fightback through quick-fire tries from Lee Gaskell and a brace from Foster, each converted by the latter to give the Yorkshire outfit a once unlikely two point advantage at the break.
The Bulls then picked up where they left off after the interval and, following a 40-metre break from Tom Olbison, Luke Gale dummied his way through to increase the hosts' advantage.
Now it was the Dragons turn to try and come from behind and both Eloi Pelissier and Zeb Tai were held up by tenacious home defence.
Bradford were not to be denied a place in the quarter-finals, though, and Adrian Purtell scored again for the Bulls, Foster continuing his faultless kicking by adding a conversion and a penalty for a total of six goals.
Michael Oldfield grabbed a try back for the Dragons just after the hour, although William Barthau, deputizing for Bosc, missed two of his four conversion attempts.
Gale put the icing on the cake for Bradford by adding a last-minute drop goal.