Deacon drop goal staves off Warrington's stirring comeback

Warrington 27 - Bradford 28
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A 20-point fightback, followed by three drop goals in time added on for an injury to a cheerleader; just a typical finale to a Super League match, really.

Warrington, dreadful in the first half, had clawed their way back to lead 26-22 when Iestyn Harris sliced through, apparently to win it for the Bulls. Paul Deacon missed an easy conversion but then, as the game went into extra time, put his side back in the lead. Lee Briers equalised with a one-pointer for Warrington but finally, in the sixth minute of added time, Deacon decided it with a final drop goal.

"We were disappointed with a lot of things in the second half, but that last 45 seconds showed the desire within the team to finish the season well," said the Bradford coach Brian Noble.

Warrington had had the benefit of an excellent start, thanks to Stuart Reardon dropping Briers' kick. Warrington found a gap where Harris should have been and Ian Sibbit went over.

That was as good as it got for the Wolves in the first half, as their defensive frailties let them down badly in the remaining 38 minutes. First Jamie Langley found a way through a gaping hole and then Henry Fa'afili and Graham Appo stood watching as Lesley Vainikolo ran through to touch down Deacon's kick.

Vainikolo made it three in five minutes by going through some woefully weak tackling to set up Shontayne Hape and Warrington could be grateful that Deacon's goal-kicking was not up to his usual standard. He put over a penalty, however, and also put up the high kick that Leon Pryce palmed back for Harris to score his first.

Warrington went off to a chorus of jeers from their disappointed supporters, but they were a different team after the break, with Briers and Nathan Wood putting Appo over. Paul Wood was the next to force his way over, followed, after a delay when a cheerleader's somersault went badly wrong, by Brent Grose scoring from Briers' pass. When Dean Gaskell scored from Nathan Wood's kick, the Wolves were ahead with 10 minutes to play.

"We got hit by a five-minute whirlwind in the first half and that's what cost us the game," said the Warrington coach, Paul Cullen. "To come back the way we did was a remarkable effort."

¿ Hull inflicted a third Super League defeat on Salford this season yesterday. The Reds played 65 minutes with only 12 men after Andy Coley was sent off but only lost 12-8. Wigan beat the London Broncos 26-22 in the capital to move closer to home advantage for the play-offs.

Warrington: Appo; Fa'afili, Grose, Burns, Gaskell; Briers, N Wood; Lima, Clarke, Hilton, Sibbit, P Wood, Forshaw. Substitutes used: Gleeson, Hulse, Guisset, Leikvoll

Bradford: Withers; Reardon, Pryce, Hape, Vainikolo; Harris, Deacon; Vagana, Paul, Fielden, Peacock, Swann, Langley. Substitutes used: Pratt, Johnson, Parker, Moore.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).