Craigie drives Widnes past ailing Bulls

Widnes 31 Bradford 22
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The Independent Online

Bradford's miserable start to the Super League campaign continued as they slumped to their second successive defeat against an impressive Widnes side who look set to dispel their tag as one of the relegation favourites.

Bradford's miserable start to the Super League campaign continued as they slumped to their second successive defeat against an impressive Widnes side who look set to dispel their tag as one of the relegation favourites.

Widnes looked by far the more cohesive and organised side for large periods on the back of a superb display from their new Australian half-back, Owen Craigie. The bulging physique of Craigie is far from flattered by the tight-fitting Widnes jersey, but his talent is undeniable. After bursting over on the left for his side's opening try following the scrum, Craigie superbly marshalled the home side while the veteran prop, Terry O'Connor, one of five former Wigan players in the Widnes ranks, enjoyed an outstanding debut.

"Owen will set Super League alight this year," said O'Connor. "He was absolutely fantastic. But he did a back flip after his try that I didn't think a guy his size could do." The Widnes coach, Frank Endacott, said: "It wasn't just a win, it was a quality win. It all came together today. They tell me it's the first time Widnes have beaten Bradford in Super League and it's a real good feeling.''

The Bradford coach, Brian Noble, said: "At the moment we are just giving the ball away too easily and compounding that with penalties against us. We are not mounting pressure and are giving sides a leg up all the time. But we will turn it around and we'll bounce back.''

Leon Pryce briefly gave Bradford the lead, though it was an individual rather than team try, a superb effort from 60 metres. But Widnes continued to feed off Bradford errors and Aaron Moule fought his way over on the blind side before Craigie's bullet pass gave Gary Connolly the chance to send Matt Whitaker over for a third try. Stephen Rowlands tagged on the conversion and added a penalty to confirm his side's first-half dominance.

Bradford mounted a recovery when the winger Andy Smith scored seconds after Andrew Emelio was sent to the sin-bin and with Widnes still short-handed Iestyn Harris burst over from close range to tie the scores. But Craigie then pulled another trick out of his repertoire, stabbing a left-footed kick through a flat defence for Jon Whittle to regain the lead on the hour mark.

Four minutes later Craigie showed the Bradford defence an outrageous dummy before cutting over, and though Bradford responded with a Karl Pryce try, Craigie's drop goal and Shane Millard's late try confirmed Widnes' superiority.

Widnes: Connolly; Emelio, Moule, Whittle, Rowlands; Craigie, Hulse; O'Connor, Millard, Whitaker, Cassidy, Stankevitch, Frame.

Substitutes: Finnigan, Fa'alogo, M Smith, Mills.

Bradford: Reardon; K Pryce, L Pryce, Johnson, A Smith; Harris, Deacon; Vagana, Paul, Fielden, Myers, Peacock, Radford.

Substitutes: Lynch, Langley, Parker, Pratt.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).

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