BRADFORD Bulls failed to make it six successive league wins in a transatlantic clash of the Titans.
John Kear’s men made the arduous journey to the Lamport Stadium in Canada for a tie that would have huge implications at the top of the Betfred Championship.
They came up against a potent Toronto Wolfpack side who have preyed on most sides they’ve faced this season.
The hosts hunted as a group all game to try to unlock a stubborn Bulls defence and in the end, Toronto stretched their lead at the top to four points with a 36-16 victory.
In truth, that scoreline was generous towards the hosts.
The stats at the end of the game gave a more reflective picture of the game, with both sides neck and neck in most departments.
But the telling figures were tackle attempts and errors.
Toronto’s incessant pressure meant the visitors had little opportunity to get out and play free-flowing rugby.
At the end of the game, Bradford’s errors made sat at a mere three, but this was indicative of a side who had no room to take risks if they wanted a chance in the game.
Brian McDermott’s pack had only lost one game all season before this one and their dominance told.
The hosts were in control for much of the first period and it was just a case of whether the Bulls strong defensive effort would break at any point.
Kear’s charges held out well with several last-ditch challenges as the Bulls defensive line scrambled from left to right in order to deal with the quick, slick passing play of Toronto.
It was the first milestone passed when the visitors reached the 10-minute mark without conceding, restricting the Wolfpack to brief sniffs of their try-line.
Sam Hallas was marshalling the troops in the early stages and made several rare darts forward to try gain ground.
But, the Bulls struggled to get out of their half and eventually their resistance broke.
On 12 minutes, Toronto winger Rawsthorne made up for earlier missed opportunities when he scored the game’s first try on the right of the pitch.
In a theme that would run for the rest of the match, Toronto were patient but pacey with their play and shifted the ball from the edge of the left wing into the middle.
The ball came to Jon Wilkin who drew the Bulls defence in before firing a long pass wide to the right for Rawsthorne as he was clattered in the centre.
Rawsthorne made no mistake and dived over for four, but no extras could be added by Gareth O’Brien.
Just over seven minutes later, Rawsthorne had a double with an almost identical passage of play to the first try – including O’Brien missing his kick again.
But, replays showed that Rawsthorne’s luminous green boot just drifted out of touch as he dived to put the ball down.
In a game of small margins where the Bulls needed everything to be on song, that contentious moment would have annoyed Kear, but this time Toronto quite literally got the rub of the green.
From there the one-way traffic continued.
In a frantic last 10 of the half, though, the Bulls worked themselves back into it with two quick-fire tries.
Kear played a masterstroke by bringing big boys Green and Peltier on from the bench, and it was Peltier who started it off.
The try wasn’t pretty, but his driving run of around 10 metres while three Toronto players snapped at his ankles and body was impressive stuff.
Bulls’ second had slightly more class.
The pitch opened up for Hallas who charged through and played the ball over the approaching final defender to set Milnes free who scampered on to put the ball down near the posts.
At the break, the Bulls would have been buoyed by the success of some rare offensive play which left them only two points off the hosts at 14-12.
Toronto piled the pressure on in the hunt for victory, but the Bulls – who must have been blowing hard – held firm as they were spurred on by an army of over 500 travelling fans.
It took until the 55th minute for Toronto to be able to break through and from there they began to run away with it.
Leutelle – whose flittering feet caused the visitors issues in the second half – got this one after some clever link-up play with Liam Kay.
O’Brien finally converted at the third time of asking to take it to 20-12.
While his kicking let him down on the day, with a modest four out of seven attempts, O’Brien was genius with ball in hand.
It was his presence of mind which led to Toronto’s fourth, when he darted forward, made the show-and-go and then carried on enough to draw Ross Oakes in, before firing the ball right to the open Chase Stanley.
O’Brien then followed this up with a try of his own, which put paid to any idea of a comeback for the Bulls.
The Bulls got some respite when Dalton Grant went over far in the right-hand corner after some great work from Elliot Minchella in the middle.
But, this came in the last 10 and in a rush to get the game on, Minchella saw his kick drift wide, leaving the scoreboard at 32-16.
The clock ticked down and even though the Bulls didn't give up, it was only going to end one way.
A killer blow came with one of the last passages of play when key-man Kay bagged a try for himself.
Mellor made a perfectly weighted kick as the Bulls’ defence approached on the 10-metre mark, but there was still a lot to do.
The long-haired Kay ran through with speed on the left to catch up with the kick near the corner and somehow managed to plant it down with a Superman dive as the ball cannoned up high and hard.
It was Toronto’s relentless pressure and their short pops and passes which eventually exhausted the Bulls line after a valiant effort all match.
Kear’s men now sit eight points off leaders Toronto and have Leigh and York breathing down their necks.
The Bulls will hope to get back to winning ways in the league when they face Halifax on Saturday, May 18 as part of the Summer Bash in Blackpool.
But first, there’s the small matter of a Coral Challenge Cup derby at home to Super League Leeds Rhinos on Saturday.