Bradford 30 Wigan 31: Richards' late drop goal seals Wigan recovery

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The Independent Online

The creative genius of Trent Barrett and three tries from Mark Calderwood overturned a 24-point deficit to pave the way for the most dramatic of Wigan victories in an unforgettable elimination playoff.

The combination of the two rescued Wigan after they seem to have been buried by a first-half hat-trick from David Solomona. After they had fought their way back to parity, it was the cool nerve of Pat Richards that brought the winning drop goal three minutes from time.

"Bradford was the better team for 60 minutes, but then we found the spark," said the Wigan and former Bradford coach, Brian Noble. "To come back from 30-6 was a special effort, especially here. We recognise that we will need to improve to go on in this competition but I can't think of many teams that would have come back like that."

There was no sign of such a stunning comeback when Iestyn Harris' try and fourth and fifth goals stretched the Bulls lead to what looked like unassailable proportions at the start of the second half.

But Barrett's kicking skills helped to turn the tide and then his passing opened up the flank for Calderwood's first try, as the winger began to make up for the first-half blunders that had helped the Bulls to take control.

Barrett sent Calderwood over for his second with a gem of a ball and then another perfectly timed pass sent Harrison Hansen over.

Bradford were crackling with nerves by this stage and an interception from Shontayne Hape gave Calderwood the invitation to go 90 metres for an extraordinary equaliser.

Bradford might still have escaped but for Nathan McAvoy's horrendous knock-on that gave Wigan the position from which Richards, faultless with his goal kicking all night, put over the crucial one point.

"We came up with some really basic errors and they came back from a seemingly impossible position," said the Bulls coach, SteveMcNamara, who had seen Wigan totally fail to handle Solomona in the first half. "But he needed a rest," McNamara added. "He's not an 80-minute player."

And Bradford paid the price for not being an 80-minute team; they were not helped by the loss of Chris Feather with a badly dislocated shoulder, which limited the way they were able to use their substitutes.

Wigan, after such a turbulent season, meet the winners of today's play-off between Hull and Huddersfield next weekend.

Bradford: Platt, St Hilare, B Harris, Happe, Tupou, Morrison, I Harris, Vagana, Newton, Lynch, McKenna, Solomona, Burgess. Substitutes: Cook, McAvoy, Feather, Henderson.

Wigan: Richards, Calderwood, Bailey, Vaealiki, Colbon, Barrett, Leuluai, Fielden, Millard, Palea'aesina, Hanson, Fletcher, O'Loughlin. Substitutes: Higham, Hock, Goulding, Prescott.

Referee: S Ganson (St Helens).

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