Atkins' long-distance dash helps Wolves outrun Bulls
Bradford Bulls 10 Warrington Wolves 23
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 04 March 2012
Warrington, the leaders, completedtheir best start to a Super League season by remaining unbeaten after five rounds. Bradford are still waiting for a first win at what used to be Fortress Odsal. The Wolves were a long way from their sparkling best against gutsy opponents who had little luck with key decisions from the officials.
"We got close a couple of times and it could have been a different story. It was probably our best performance this year," said Mick Potter, the Bulls' coach, who felt, justifiably, that his side's effort had given him something to work with in coming weeks.
"They were very spirited tonight and made us work very hard. We had to dig deep to overcome them," said the Wolves coach, Tony Smith. "I'm really proud of my players, who showed what they needed to show."
Bradford led for most of the first half and deserved to be further ahead than they were. Their points came early, Matt Diskin burrowing over from dummy-half and Jarrod Sammut adding the conversion. Warrington were without two blue-chip performers, Michael Monaghan and Ben Westwood. When they also lost their orchestrator, Lee Briers, temporarily with a hip injury, their depth was being severely tested.
The try that narrowed the Bulls' lead had a large question mark over it, Brett Hodgson's scoring pass to Chris Riley seeming to drift forward without Thierry Alibert or his touch-judges finding anything to object to.
Bradford were close to two further tries on the breakaway. Sammut had one disallowed for offside from a charged-down kick and Michael Platt's toe just poked into touch when Ben Jeffries had kicked to the corner.
Just before the break the Wolves got their noses in front, Monaghan's stand-in, Mickey Higham, scampering over from close range. Chris Bridge converted against his old club.
There was more controversy when Warrington extended their lead soon after the break. Ryan Atkins' 80-metre dash from a blocked kick for a 100th career try was pure quality, but Riley could have been interpreted as "running interference" to keep a potential tackler at bay.
Bridge was lucky to stay on the field after an elbow lunge at Jeffries, but on the hour Trent Waterhouse was too big and strong for the Bulls on their line, as he stretched out to claim the fourth Wolves try.
Bradford were in no mood to give up, Jason Crookes scoring in the corner from an imaginative pass by John Bateman. Any chance of a fightback was blotted out by a drop-goal from Briers, back on the field to guide his side home in the second half.
Bradford Bulls Kearney; Crookes, Lulia, Platt, Kear; Sammut, Jeffries; Kopczak, Diskin, Hargreaves, Whitehead, Bateman, Langley. Substitutes used L'Estrange, Burgess, Joseph, Manuokafoa.
Warrington Wolves Hodgson; Riley, Bridge, Atkins, Monaghan; Briers, Myler; Morley, Higham, Wood, Waterhouse, Blythe, Cooper. Substitutes used Ratchford, Carvell, Hill, McCarthy.
Referee T Alibert (France).
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