Bradford Bulls 10 Warrington Wolves 46
After a heavy Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final exit, the Bulls can now focus on the small matter of Super League survival.
Warrington ran in four tries in the final quarter of the match to underline their class and give the scoreline a somewhat distorted look.
As Francis Cummins admitted, his players were ultimately sapped of energy in the heat and Warrington made them pay as they booked a semi-final spot with Leeds.
It was harsh on the Bulls to see the game run away from them to this extent but they committed numerous yardage errors which helped the Wolves – who had lost 34-28 to the Bulls in Super League at the Provident Stadium on May 4 – on their way.
Many home supporters directed their anger at referee Phil Bentham, yet Warrington, Challenge Cup winners three times since Tony Smith took charge in 2009, were worthy and comfortable victors.
Hooker Michael Monaghan bossed proceedings from dummy half and former Bulls junior Chris Bridge enjoyed another impressive match in the halves alongside Richie Myler.
There was another try for Ryan Atkins against his former club and now Bradford must pick themselves up for Sunday’s pivotal trip to Salford.
Win there and the Red Devils will be right in the thick of the relegation battle, especially if the Bulls get points back from their appeal this week.
There was a sense of continuity to the Bradford line-up with just two changes to the 17 on duty who beat Wakefield seven days earlier.
Antonio Kaufusi’s four-match loan spell ended last week and, although the Bulls are aiming to extend it, he was cup-tied yesterday anyway.
Dale Ferguson suffered another injury setback and was absent with a knock, so Adam O’Brien and Adam Henry earned recalls to the bench.
Chev Walker and Manase Manuokafoa were the starting props while Warrington fielded three former Bradford men in their ranks.
The in-form Bridge started at stand-off, Atkins at left centre and Ben Evans was named among the replacements.
The Wales forward’s twin brother Rhys lined up on the left wing for the visitors and the Monaghan siblings, Michael and Joel, also made the starting line-up.
Hooker Monaghan, who recently announced plans to retire at the end of the season, enjoyed an outstanding first half to help Warrington into a commanding 18-4 interval lead.
The Wolves were soon camped in the Bulls’ half and began to ask some searching questions of their hosts.
Michael Monaghan almost scooted over from dummy half and Stefan Ratchford, deployed at loose forward and enjoying an outstanding match, also went close.
The line-speed of the Bulls defence was impressive and followed the improvement showed in last week’s win over Wakefield.
Yet with the elder Monaghan brother dominating proceedings from the ruck, the likes of Bridge and Myler began to enjoy plenty of possession.
It seemed only a matter of time before the Bulls’ resistance was broken and so it proved in the 15th minute.
After James Donaldson conceded a penalty for interference at the play-the-ball, Michael Monaghan collected possession once again and his simple pass sent Myler weaving his way through the Bradford defence from close range.
Bridge added the extras but four minutes later the Bulls responded with a superb score from their first meaningful attack.
After Matt Diskin was denied by some obstinate Warrington defence as he attempted to dart over from acting half, Luke Gale showed intelligence to whip a fine pass out to Adrian Purtell in the right channel.
The Australian was similarly alert to find Elliot Kear in space in the right corner and the Wales winger finished superbly after squeezing past two Warrington defenders.
Gale could not convert from the touchline and the pendulum immediately swung back in Warrington’s favour in calamitous fashion.
Straight from the restart, Lee Gaskell and Sidlow failed to deal with the kick and conceded a drop-out, which proved costly as possession was gifted straight back to Warrington.
They made the Bulls pay as Atkins scored his customary try against his old club after taking Myler’s short pass ten metres out before plunging over the line.
Bridge’s goal made it 12-4 and the Wolves added a third four minutes later when Scotland full back Matty Russell took Michael Monaghan’s pass to evade the challenge of Sidlow and scamper under the posts.
With Bridge’s third successful conversion making it 18-4, the Bulls really needed the response of a try before the break.
They did not get it and Jay Pitts conceded a penalty for a dangerous lift on Anthony England but the incident was not placed on report.
Jamal Fakir and Adam O’Brien entered the fray as the half progressed but the Bulls rarely looked like breaching the Warrington defence before the interval hooter.
Gale flighted a clever delivery to the right corner in search of Kear but his kick was overcooked and the opportunity was spurned.
Trailing 18-4 at the break, the Bulls were right up against it in the second half and Warrington threatened a fourth right after the restart.
Ratchford’s pass sent Myler racing clear but his offload was clearly forward and the Bulls survived.
They had a lifeline soon after when George scored his team’s second try in the 46th minute.
Bridge’s attempted offload fell kindly into George’s path around 20 metres inside his own half. The former Huddersfield man looked like he had found a fifty pound note as he collected the ball and ran clear of the Warrington defence to score.
The try was awarded after review by the video referee and Gale added the extras to make it 18-10.
The hope did not last long, however, as Warrington scored a fourth try five minutes later.
It was shrouded in controversy as Bentham awarded possession to Warrington amid suspicion of a forward pass, culminating in Bridge’s pass sending the unmarked Gene Ormsby over in the right corner.
Warrington thought they had claimed a fifth try five minutes later when Simon Grix touched down after Purtell failed to deal with Myler’s kick but the video referee ruled him offside.
The Bulls fashioned a spirited response, led by Gale, and the England Knights playmaker almost engineered a way through the Warrington defence as the hour-mark approached.
But in the 62nd minute, Myler claimed a close-range try as he went past replacement Adam Henry as if he was not there to score with far too much ease.
Bridge landed his fifth goal and Diskin returned to the field but Warrington kept their foot on the Bulls’ throat.
They scored again in the 64th minute when Bridge’s fine pass sent Joel Monaghan over the line for a sublime finish in the right corner.
The winger scored again six minutes later from Ratchford’s superb break and pass before Ben Currie wrapped up the scoring late on from close range, with Bridge kicking seven goals from eight attempts.
Castleford turned the clock back 28 years to dump holders Wigan out in an absorbing quarter-final at the DW Stadium.
The Tigers pulled off a thoroughly-deserved 16-4 triumph to inflict on Wigan their first home Challenge Cup defeat since 1986.
Castleford were also the victors that day on their way to lifting the trophy at Wembley for the last time.
The Tigers were clinging to a six-point lead when former Wigan prop Lee Jewitt burst through a tiring Warriors defence to score his first try for the club on only his third appearance three minutes from the end to seal a famous victory.
“We were superb,” said Cas coach Daryl Powell.
“It’s obviously a pretty big win and for me as well. We haven’t won anything yet so we don’t want to get too carried away but I think it just cements us as a genuine team.”