Edwards refuses to be written off

Rugby league: Wigan 42 Bradford Bulls 36
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The Independent Online
You write off Shaun Edwards as no longer being the game's most influential scrum-half at your peril. In the week he signed a new Wigan contract and in a season when he is likely to be overlooked for individual honours, Edwards' four tries showed that his legendary opportunism is sharp as ever and swung a glorious match his side's way.

And all this after the first 40 minutes during which, despite his early try, he was in danger of being comprehensively outshone by his opposite number, Robbie Paul. Edwards' first half was most notable for the 10 minutes he spent in the sin bin with Graeme Bradley for fighting, until, in injury time, he picked up a loose ball to take Wigan into the lead.

Two minutes after the restart, Edwards raced after Andy Farrell's kick, outpacing Paul, almost a decade his junior, for his third try. That seemed to have set Wigan rolling merrily towards the chance of a first trophy of the season, especially when Danny Ellison and Henry Paul went over in swift succession.

But Bradford, in what turned out to be Brian Smith's last match in charge before leaving for Parramatta, were full of defiance. Robbie Paul added a scintillating, side-stepping try to the long-range one he had scored in the first half and Bradley and Glen Tomlinson both went over to pull the score back to 32-32 with 15 minutes to play.

But then Edwards again anticipated a kick ahead, this time from Henry Paul, to pounce for his fourth try. Bradley came back to complete his own hat-trick but where Farrell had kicked his conversion Steve McNamara failed with his to leave Wigan two points ahead.

Edwards' pass from the scrum base sent in Ellison to turn those two points into six, but in time added on for the numerous video replays, Tomlinson could still have forced the match into extra time if he could have reached his own grubber kick.

"We are shattered and very disappointed, because we feel we did enough to win" Smith said. "We exposed a lot of frailties in the way Wigan performed tonight, but they also showed great desire to get to the Premiership final. If it had not been for two kicks hitting the post, a couple of decisions that went against us and a series of injuries, we could have won."

It was Edwards who summed up Wigan's as yet unfulfilled hunger for a trophy. "If we had lost tonight it would have been a disastrous season," he said. It is thanks to him that it cannot be dismissed in those terms.

Wigan: Radlinski; Ellison, Tuigamala, Connolly, Robinson; H Paul, Edwards; Cowie, Hall, O'Connor, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes used: Skerrett, Barrow. Not used: Murdock, Johnson.

Bradford Bulls: Cook; Tamani, Calland, Loughlin, Scales; Bradley, R Paul; Fairbank, Rows, McDermott, Nickle, Dwyer, McNamara. Substitutes used: Graham, Donougher, Tomlinson, Medley.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).

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