It was an opening day defeat for Jonty Gorley’s Whitehaven at the hands of the Bradford Bulls who had plenty of former Super League experience in the ranks to grab the two points thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from debutant Tom Holmes.

It was a rusty few minutes to open the encounter with both sides conceding errors in the early going. The Bulls were forced into an early re-shuffle with the loss of former Leeds Rhino Jack Walker in just the third minute.

Despite that it was the home side who had the early pressure despite the errors but the momentum switched around into the favour of Haven around the 10th minute with the home side forced into conceding a goal line drop out.

From the resulting set Whitehaven got the first score of the match after being given a penalty for offside following an Alex Bishop ball ricocheting off a Bulls defender and collected by a teammate standing in front of his teammate. Freeman converted for his first points in the colours of Whitehaven.

The momentum soon shifted back towards the Bulls with the half-back partnership of Dec Patton and Jordan Lilley starting to pull the strings.

The Bulls looked to be over in the 24th minute as Tom Holmes, who had switched from the halves to full-back following the loss of Walker, crossed the whitewash but it was chalked off as Chester Butler was judged to have obstructed the Whitehaven defence in the build up.

The respite was only temporary, however, as Butler crashed his way over from short range to get the game’s first try. Patton converted from out wide.

The onslaught continued from the Bulls throughout the remainder of the first half as they battered the try line of Whitehaven but the defence held strong and it was a four-point deficit for Haven at the break.

The second half started the same as the first had ended with the home side on top, but they were able to convert the pressure into two back to back tries which seemed to kill any hopes of three victories in a row for Haven at Odsal following their successes in 2021 and 2022.

The first was given in controversial circumstances as a Chester Butler pass to Kieran Gill looked to be forward.

The appeals of the visiting players were waved away as Kieran Gill ran untouched to ground the ball but further appeals from the visitors as Gill was very close to the dead ball line and grounding the ball on the dead ball line but the four-pointer was given by match official Nick Bennett.

The second try saw no controversy but skilful passing and speedy play saw the visitors defence opened up.

The ball was shifted through several pairs of hands but the final pass from Holmes to Gill saw the centre cross for his second of the game in as many minutes. Dec Patton, who had also been involved in the build up, converted the two tries for a 16-point advantage.

Haven looked to have hit back just before the hour mark but Curtis Teare dropped the ball with the line begging in a game of a few opportunities for the visitors.

They were able to take advantage of the next opportunity following a chaotic passage of play. A pass towards Sam Freeman hit the floor and bounced up towards the full back. He was able to kick the ball forward and Dave Eccleston grounded the ball on the right hand edge. Freeman converted from the touchline to reduce the deficit.

The visitors couldn’t take any further opportunities and it was the home side who ended the game with the final score. Hooker George Flanagan scooted over from dummy half and scored from short range. Patton converted to maintain his 100% record with the boot.

Injury worries look ahead for Jonty Gorley’s side as he finished the game with 12 men as Sam Freeman pulled up holding his hamstring in the final minute of the game as well as losing Jake Bradley with knee worries.



31 Jack Walker, 2 Ben Blackmore, 3 Joe Arundel, 4 Kieran Gill, 5 David Foggin-Johnston, 1 Tom Holmes, 6 Dec Patton, 10 Michael Lawrence, 7 Jordan Lilley, 16 Brad Foster, 12 Chester Butler, 15 AJ Wallace, 13 Bodene Thompson. Subs: 9 George Flanagan Sr, 8 Jordan Baldwinson, 21 Fenton Rogers, 11 Brad England.

Tries: Butler (25), Gill (48,50), Flanagan Sr (76).

Goals: Patton 4/4.


1 Sam Freeman, 2 Dave Eccleston, 23 Josh Rourke, 18 Perry Singleton, 4 Curtis Teare, 14 Jamie Doran, 7 Alex Bishop, 10 Tom Walker, 21 Marcus O’Brien, 22 Lucas Castle, 11 Connor Holliday, 12 Lachlan Lanskey, 8 Liam McAvoy. Subs: 13 Dion Aiye, 16 Lasarusa Tabu, 20 Jake Bradley, 28 Ross Ainley.

Tries: Eccleston (64).

Goals: Freeman 1/1.

Penalty count: 7-5

Half-time: 6-2

Referee: Nick Bennett

Attendance: 4,870.