Wigan Warriors 84 Bradford Bulls 6
More misery. More gloom. More concern.
A seventh straight Super League defeat was always going to be difficult to avoid at the DW Stadium yesterday.
The Bulls, decimated by injuries and a side with an average of less than 24, were facing last season’s double winners on their own turf.
But it was the manner in which they were so easily and comprehensively taken to the cleaners that raised the most questions.
Wigan were 46-0 up at half-time in a match that felt like a training ground exercise for Shaun Wane’s men.
They swatted Bradford aside like a minor irritant.
Visiting players fell off tackles far too easily as Wigan ran in 15 tries, with former Bulls prodigy John Bateman among their scorers.
The Warriors will rarely enjoy a more comfortable victory.
If it was a Formula One race, Wigan would have lapped Bradford a dozen times over.
If it was a boxing match, the fight would have been stopped.
At the highest level of rugby league, it made you cringe.
For the Bulls this was humiliation on an industrial scale – not only their heaviest-ever Super League defeat but their heaviest defeat on record.
Worse than the 75-18 loss to Leeds in 1931 and the 70-6 rout by Hull FC in 2012.
Wigan also had seven players missing but still equalled their biggest-ever league win at a canter.
Twelve months ago, the Warriors went to Hull KR and won 84-6 on Easter Monday.
They did it again yesterday at the expense of the Bulls.
A broken fibia for Oliver Roberts made matters worse but Francis Cummins took heart from the display of Sam Bates on his senior debut.
The 18-year-old prop came off the bench and threw himself into tackles, which is more than can be said for some of his team-mates.
Cummins admitted a handful of his players were way off the pace.
The Bulls’ injury crisis plumbed new depths following the home defeat to Leeds four days earlier.
James Donaldson, Adam Sidlow, Dale Ferguson and Matty Blythe were all struck down against the Rhinos and are awaiting the prognosis.
With Luke George, Matt Diskin and Jamie Foster also remaining absent, it meant the Bulls were missing seven senior players.
Lee Gaskell was at least passed fit to start alongside Luke Gale after shrugging off a knock but the Bulls’ bench was filled by four teenagers in Roberts (18), Bates (18), Alex Mellor (19) and Nathan Conroy (19).
Wigan named Bateman in their starting line-up following his man-of-the-match display in their Good Friday win at St Helens as Wane made seven changes to his line-up.
Iain Thornley, Ben Flower and Eddy Pettybourne missed out through injury, while Joe Burgess, Matty Smith, Scott Taylor and Matty Bowen were rested.
Rookie prop Ryan Sutton made his debut off the bench but, although it was an understrength Wigan line-up, it was still brimming with quality.
After Danny Addy kicked off, Bateman made the first carry for Wigan and was then on hand to tackle Brett Kearney in the Bulls’ first set of the match.
That gave Wigan the platform to build some decent field position and they duly led in the fourth minute.
George Williams broke down the right flank and, although his progress was halted by Adrian Purtell, the back was quickly recycled for the highly influential Blake Green to burrow over from close range.
Ryan Hampshire’s conversion made it 6-0 and in the tenth minute Wigan scored again when Green’s pass sent Anthony Gelling over the line in the left corner.
With Sean O’Loughlin a typically influential figure for Wigan, it was no surprise to see him on the scoresheet.
But when it came it was with a touch of good fortune as Kearney misjudged a kick in front the posts and O’Loughlin was on hand to score one of the easiest tries of his career.
Bates then came on to replace Jamal Fakir but Wigan continued to probe and scored again through impressive young full back Hampshire after neat passing between Green and George Williams.
Hampshire, who is seen as the long-term successor to Sam Tomkins, then took a perfect pass from Liam Farrell to score after the England back-rower had scythed through the Bradford defence.
Roberts then came on to replace Manase Manuokafoa but the game was rapidly slipping away from the Bulls.
Wigan soon scored again when Farrell collected O’Loughlin’s pass to power over from close range.
Jack Hughes then barrelled over the line to add another Wigan try and make it 40-0 with half-time fast approaching.
But there was still time for the Warriors to score again before the interval hooter as Sam Powell crashed over from point-blank range after the Bulls’ defence was torn apart again.
At 46-0 down at the break, it was a matter of trying to keep the scoreline respectable but Bateman, who had a steady rather than spectacular game, had other ideas.
Shorty after the restart, he swatted Gaskell aside to power over in the right corner and then provided the pass to send Darrell Goulding over the line.
The centre backed up a good passing move involving Green and Bateman, with Williams this time missing the conversion.
Green, who was outstanding for the Warriors, showed both pace and power to go 50 metres for his second try and Williams made it 62-0 with half an hour still left to play.
Wigan’s 12th try was a little bit special as Hampshire again coasted through some poor defence before sending a ball back inside for Williams to go in under the posts.
Wigan seemed to take the foot off the gas but still managed further tries from Gelling, Dominic Manfredi and Gil Dudson after the Bulls’ defence was repeatedly exposed.
But the travelling Bradford fans finally had something to shout about in the 67th minute when Gale stepped his way over for their first and only try of the game with a fine piece of footwork.
There was a touch of gallows humour from the visiting supporters who chanted ‘we can see you sneaking out’ to the Wigan fans in the closing stages.
That, and Gale’s try, brought some light relief for the travelling contingent.
Yet there was no mistaking that this was a dark day in the history of Bradford Bulls.