Bradford denied uplifting victory

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The Independent Online
Wigan 22 Bradford Bulls 6

Bradford's preparation for Wembley was not destined to include the ultimate morale-boost of a victory over Wigan.

Although there was much to admire in the Bulls' play at times, a side significantly weaker in several positions will have to show steelier concentration if it is to beat St Helens in the Challenge Cup final next Saturday.

Bradford had to absorb heavy pressure from the start and would have been relieved to concede only two points, via an Andrew Farrell penalty, in the opening stages. But after their one dangerous attack had been ended by Kris Radlinski's superb tackle on Paul Loughlin, they conceded the only try of the first half when after 13 minutes Henry Paul stepped outside Graeme Bradley.

Bradford squandered too many of their limite chances with poor handling, but their defence was good enough to demand something special to break it down again. It came through a flick pass from the Wigan substitute, Andy Johnson, which sent Va'aiga Tuigamala storming away, bumping out of a series of tackles before setting up Andrew Craig, only in the side because of Jason Robinson's dispute with the club.

A second Farrell goal gave Wigan the cushion they needed and their lead soon took on handsome proportions when Paul's pass put Simon Haughton over.

Bradley and James Lowes both went close for Bradford as they strived to reply, but Wigan's tackling near their line held firm until Loughlin's close-range effort finally breached it midway through the second half, Paul Cook adding the goal.

Any hope of a fight-back was snuffed out, though, when another Wigan substitute, Craig Murdock, went over after Paul and Tuigamala had prepared the way for him.

It was enough to ensure that his captain, Shaun Edwards, would draw winning money at the end of his 500th professional game.

Wigan: Radlinski; Craig, Tuigamala, Connolly, Smyth, H Paul, Edwards, Cowie, Hall, O'Connor, Quinnell, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes: Murdock, Skerrett, Haughton, Johnson.

Bradford Bulls: Graham; Cook, Calland, Loughlin, Scales, Bradley, R Paul, McDermott, Lowes, Dwyer, Donougher, Nickle, McNamara. Substitutes: Longo, Medley, Fairbank, Christie.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).