Wigan Warriors 60 Bradford Bulls 12
Another performance to sum up the Bulls’ sorry season.
Awful in patches, mediocre in others and good in frustratingly short spells – the kind of maddening inconsistency that has had head coach Mick Potter pulling his hair out.
The Bulls started badly but made a brief comeback to 18-12 before Wigan ran in 42 unanswered second-half points in a manner slightly reminiscent of the previous week’s collapse against Hull KR.
But there was one major difference between the two performances. Heart.
Bradford at least battled on as if it mattered, even as the points were mounting up, but effort wasn’t enough to prevent Wigan’s quality shining through. This was another game that highlighted the divide between the haves and have nots.
One bright spot was the try scored by 18-year-old John Bateman in just his third outing for the senior side.
The talented teen’s reaction to his first Bradford try proved exactly what it meant to him and the back-rower will have an important part to play in any future revival at Odsal.
The Bulls’ first set was a good one, Pat Richards fielding Brett Kearney’s kick virtually on his own try-line, but a touch of slackness at marker quickly put Wigan on the front foot.
Ian Sibbit was caught out as Thomas Leuluai weaved out of dummy half, darting away to release Sean O’Loughlin, who in turn put Sam Tomkins on his bike.
The livewire full back seemed certain to cut a path through the Bradford defence until a tremendous hit from Gareth Raynor stopped him in his path – and, no doubt, left him needing to regather his thoughts.
An overlap was wasted thanks to a loose offload from Josh Charnley but it took the hosts no time at all to break the deadlock.
Another thrilling break from Sam Tomkins gave them field position and George Carmont scored the softest of tries, flopping over the try-line from dummy half.
Wigan added to their tally before there was even ten minutes on the clock.
Kearney knocked on while attempting to gather a bomb from O’Loughlin and the Warriors’ talismanic playmaker produced another touch of class.
Spotting a gap in the line, O’Loughlin sent Ryan Hoffman strolling straight through it with a delightful cut-out pass – the kind of magic Bradford have been sadly lacking this season.
Richards added the conversion to put his side 10-0 in front.
The Bulls enjoyed a narrow escape when Carmont knocked on as he sniffed a second try but did themselves absolutely no favours in the exchanges that followed.
And it got even worse. If Carmont’s first try had been soft, his second was beyond belief – an absolute gift, neatly wrapped up and dropped into his lap.
Collecting Sam Tomkins’ grubber behind his own try-line, Ah Van attempted to avoid a drop-out but succeeded only in dropping the ball.
Carmont only had to stretch out an arm and apply the requisite downward pressure. He could barely believe his luck.
Strangely, the Bulls’ problems seemed contagious – in the short term at least – and Jeff Lima lost the ball in the first set after play had restarted.
That seemed to be the catalyst for something of a revival, the Bulls playing with a renewed sense of optimism and no shortage of vigour.
But when Kopczak spurned a good chance, losing the ball metres out from the Wigan try-line, you sensed it would prove costly.
Jamie Langley was penalised for holding on in the tackle and the Warriors turned defence into attack, O’Loughlin, Sam Tomkins and Carmont all combining brilliantly to send in Richards. The visitors simply had no answer to their hosts’ hot hands.
But, unlike the capitulation against Hull KR, heads didn’t drop. In fact, the Bulls recovered to pull within six points at the break.
Ah Van converted and the home fans fell unusually quiet.
But their silence didn’t last long, thanks to a disastrous start to the second half by Bradford.
The loss of Herbert didn’t help and neither did a soft knock-on from Lynch.
O’Loughlin cleverly switched play and Sam Tomkins took the pass from Liam Farrell, gave Addy the slip and raced to the line, Richards adding the extras.
After that, normal service was resumed and the Warriors scored twice more within the next five minutes.
Charnley took a pass from Darrell Goulding to finish a slick move in the corner and, following a brief interlude provided by Sykes’ high shot on Sam Tomkins, O’Loughlin raced through the middle to touch down.
Richards then beat Sykes to Paul Deacon’s crossfield kick to claim his second try of the evening and absolutely nothing would go right for the Bulls.
Even when they tried to force the matter, making a promising raid into opposition territory, the Warriors managed to turn it into another hurtful blow.
Jeffries dropped the ball ten metres from the try-line and Sam Tomkins scooped it up before racing 90 metres to score, despite a gallant chase from Raynor. Richards’ conversion gave the hosts a 44-12 lead.
The final ten minutes saw Wigan simply rub salt into the wounds.
Harrison Hansen powered through three tacklers to touch down before an error from Shad Royston on attack, depressingly reminiscent of Jeffries’ earlier mistake, allowed Sam Tomkins to send Charnley the length of the pitch.
Richards completed the win – and his hat-trick – a minute from time.