Bradford Bulls 17 Featherstone Rovers 16: Bulls begin Championship season with narrow win over spirited Rovers

Dane Chisholm's drop-goal proved decisive as Bradford began the new season with  a narrow win over Featherstone.
Dane Chisholm's drop-goal proved decisive as Bradford began the new season with a narrow win over Featherstone.

Bradford Bulls won for the first time in four games against West Yorkshire rivals Featherstone Rovers to make a winning return to the Betfred Championship.

Both sides played their part in a enthralling contest which was on a knife edge until the final hooter.

Luke Briscoe's second-half try took his career points' total past the 250 mark.

Luke Briscoe's second-half try took his career points' total past the 250 mark.

A drop goal from Dane Chisholm proved decisive as the Bulls edged a narrow contest to take the points.

Featherstone more than played their part, battling back from 10 points down after Bradford had taken control in the second period.

Both teams will have aspirations of finishing in the top five, and if this game is anything to go by, the battle for those coveted play-off spots will go right down to the wire.

The opening quarter of the match saw both sides tussle and battle for territory, with most of the tackles being made in the middle third of the field.

Former Castleford Tigers full-back Jake Webster opened Bradford Bulls' account on the half-hour.

Former Castleford Tigers full-back Jake Webster opened Bradford Bulls' account on the half-hour.

As the clock ticked over double figures, Featherstone began to build pressure close to the Bulls' line.

Former Parramatta Eels hooker Cameron King showed his class with a clever chip kick into space, forcing Jordan Pickersgill to concede a goal-line dropout.

From the resulting set, the away side took the lead.

Papa New Guinea internationals Ase and Watson Boas - playing their first competitive game as a half-back pairing for Featherstone - combined to open the scoring.

Ase grubbered between the posts for brother Watson who pounced to score after Jy Hitchcox spilled the ball inside his own in-goal.

Bradford responded well to the setback but were struggling to find a way through a determined visiting defence.

The breakthrough soon came for the home side, however, as Dane Chisholm's high kick was knocked back by Ethan Ryan for Jake Webster to gather and slide over out wide.

The home side continued to increase the pressure and would have taken the lead but for a brilliant try-saver from Calum Turner.

The on-loan Castleford full-back looked like he had been rounded by Webster but he got across to bring down the veteran centre metres from the whitewash.

Bradford began the second half well on top, scoring twice in quick succession to go in front.

The first try came soon after the second-half restart when Dane Chisholm won the race to ground Lilley's kick in the corner.

Hooker George Flanagan - only on the pitch a matter of minutes - sneaked over from dummy half to extend the Bulls' advantage.

Chisholm converted that score and added a penalty goal soon after to give the home side a 10-point cushion.

Rovers responded well to going behind, reducing the deficit to six points on the hour mark.

Watson Boas angled a kick to the corner, Hitchcox was again guilty of failing to deal with the danger, allowing Luke Briscoe to pounce. That try took the winger's career points' tally past the 250 mark.

And it wasn't long before King had his first Championship try to draw Featherstone level.

The former NRL hooker displayed his quality, going from dummy half and charging through the Bulls defence to force his way over under the posts.

As the game edged into the final 10 minutes, Chisholm slotted a drop-goal between the posts to edge Bradford in front.

Both sides battled for more crucial points but none came, leaving Bradford celebrating an opening-day victory on their Championship return.

Bradford Bulls: Pickersgill, Hitchcox, Evans, Webster, Ryan, Chisholm, Lilley, Kirk, Wildie, Crossley, Farrell, Minchella, Hallas. Subs: Flanagan, Green, Oakes, Wood.

Featherstone Rovers: Turner, Briscoe, Teteh, Newman, Carey, A. Boas, W. Boas, Wheeldon, King, Ormondroyd, Day, Walters, Lockwood. Subs: Davies, Cooper, Hardcastle, Maskill.

Referee: Mr J Smith