Bradford blown away as Wigan warm up for world challenge

Bradford 10 Wigan 44
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The Independent Online

Wigan warmed up for their tilt at the world title and expunged one of the few blemishes on their record from last season with a commanding display at Bradford yesterday.

Outstanding contributions from Sam Tomkins and Thomas Leuluai were the highlights as the Warriors took control early and only briefly let Bradford into the game at the start of the second half.

Martin Gleeson came off with a sore hamstring as a precaution, but his coach, Michael Maguire, expects him to be fit to face St George Illawarra on Sunday night.

"It was very pleasing," he said of the performance, after last weekend's partial slip-up against St Helens. "We kept going forward and we scored some good tries."

"On the scoreboard it was a comprehensive victory," said the Bulls' Mick Potter. "If you have any lapses at any time, they will put points on you."

A misty Odsal and an expectant 15,348 early-season crowd were reminders of the Bulls' glory days. Bradford almost cooperated with the hopeful mood by scoring the first try, but Shad Royston's effort from Brett Kearney's kick was correctly ruled out for offside.

Wigan lost at Odsal on their way to winning the Super League crown last season, but it did not take them long yesterday to emphasise their determination that there would be no repetition.

Within 10 minutes they were ahead, Paul Deacon and George Carmont opening up the left flank for Amos Roberts, who would have had a second soon after but for Gareth Raynor's magnificent covering tackle from the opposite wing.

That valiant effort produced only a short delay, however. Two tackles later, Deacon put up the high kick and Chev Walker merely knocked it down conveniently for Harrison Hansen to drop on the loose ball.

Bradford were not helping themselves with expensive errors and cheap penalties, but Wigan's next try was a piece of pure individual brilliance, Leuluai confounding a series of defenders with some dazzling footwork and a final lunge for the line.

Leuluai and Tomkins then set up the impressive Liam Farrell, who then got on to the end of another sweeping move to release Darrell Goulding. Bradford were relieved to see half-time.

They got a little foothold in the game after the break when the kick-off bounced back to them off the crossbar, setting up a period of pressure that ended with Elliott Whitehead scoring from Kearney's kick – his fourth try of that type in two games this season.

When Patrick Ah Van scored from another Kearney kick, there might have been a flicker of hope in the most optimistic Bulls fan's breast that they might repeat last year's epic fightback.

That flimsy dream died when Ah Van dropped a kick and Roberts scored his second, followed by one from Carmont that featured some lovely footwork.

Fittingly, Tomkins rounded off one of his best performances with the last try, leaving a final score which Potter believed did less than full justice to his depleted side's efforts.

The fact was, however, that they had never once broken Wigan's line with ball in hand and had been run ragged on occasion. They need to get their injured half-backs on to the pitch before they can start improving on last season's disappointments.

From Wigan's point of view, Roberts and Stuart Fielden had come through their first games of the season successfully and it is hard to forsee many changes for the meeting with the Australian champions.

Bradford Royston; Ah Van, Platt, Walker, Raynor; Sykes, Kearney; Scruton, L'Estrange, Lynch, Elima, Whitehead, Hargreaves. Substitutes used Diskin, Kopczak, Sibbit, Olbison.

Wigan S Tomkins; Goulding, Gleeson, Carmont, Roberts; Deacon, Leuluai; Prescott, McIlorum, Fielden, Hoffman, Hansen, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used Coley, J Tomkins, Mossop, Farrell.

Referee P Bentham (Warrington).