FEATHERSTONE ROVERS were led on to the field by “The Baby-Faced Assassin” and, fittingly, secured their Qualifiers place with a perfectly-executed performance that also ended wretched Bradford Bulls’ hopes of promotion for another season.
Once back in the stands, Brendon Tuuta, the rugged Kiwi loose-forward renowned for rocking Post Office Road with his big hits after moving to Featherstone in 1990, will have given an appreciative smile as Jon Sharp’s side utterly buried their West Yorkshire rivals.
Beforehand, the Rovers head coach had deemed it a Grand Final – whoever won this last regular fixture of the Championship season was guaranteed fourth place with Super League opposition waiting in the Middle Eights – and his fired-up squad duly gave it the respect it deserved.
Three-times World Club champions Bradford, on the other hand, were completely shambolic, Rohan Smith’s side lacking any sort of leadership or constructive intent – which made the decision to drop hooker Adam O’Brien all the more baffling – while some of their skill level was truly abject.
They missed out on a return to the elite last year at the final hurdle in the Million Pound Game at Wakefield.
After this embarrassing showing, though, they must now contemplate tackling the likes of Swinton Lions, Workington and Whitehaven for the Championship Shield, a disastrous return on their significant investment but warranted on this evidence.
Inspired by the brilliance of scrum-half Anthony Thackeray, who scored one of their three tries and created another, semi-professional Featherstone made a mockery of their woeful opponents’ full-time status and can now look forward to hosting Leeds Rhinos, among others, here in the weeks ahead.
They were 18-0 up by half-time and, in all fairness, such was their control of the game they would have felt it could have been more.
With such a physical, committed pack, half-backs Thackeray and Kyle Briggs were able to dictate and they did just that.
How Bradford could have done with someone of Thackeray’s guile and organisational quality, the former Halifax, Widnes and Dewsbury scrum-half producing a series of kicks and stellar passes that caused confusion and carnage in equal amounts. That said, it has been the Bulls’ problem all season; they have no general of such sorts since day one.
To rub salt into the wounds, Featherstone had two creative talents on top of their game.
Briggs, 28, now in his third spell at Post Office Road, marked his 100th match for Rovers with the sort of performance that was far too sporadic when he was with Bradford in Super League.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman; Golding, Channing, Taulapapa, Briscoe; Briggs, Thackeray; Bostock, Ellis, Baldwinson, Snitch, Davies, Ormondroyd. Substitutes: Griffin, Tagg, Spears, Mullally.
Bradford Bulls: Moss; Caro, Blythe, Welham, Ryan; Charnock, Chisholm, Sidlow, Addy, Kavanagh, Haggerty, Mellor, Ferguson. Substitutes: Olbison, Pitts, Philbin, Howarth.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).