Mackay pushes hapless Wolves to the slaughter

Warrington Wolves 12 Bradford Bulls 84
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Sometimes in the quest for knowledge, something goes so badly wrong in the laboratory that the phrase "back to the drawing board" does not seem quite emphatic enough.

An experimental Warrington side was dissected by the League leaders in the first half at Wilderspool yesterday, when they ran in six converted tries between the ninth and the 23rd minutes. Even by the Bulls' standards, it was a merciless rampage and had they not become slapdash for a spell in the second half the first Super League century would surely have been on the cards.

The sheer power of Graham Mackay and the graceful fluidity of Michael Withers led the way as they scored a hat-trick each. But this was an afternoon when Bradford were invited to help themselves and were only too happy to do so.

"We felt we could exploit them in certain areas and we were proved right,'' said their coach, Brian Noble, who now knows that they only need to beat Leeds next week to go into the play-offs as leaders.

The Paul brothers began the demolition, Henry setting up the first try for Robbie, scoring the second himself and going on to break his own club record for goals and points in a season. Withers, Mackay, twice, and Leon Pryce all went over as well in the 14-minute burst that threatened to put their 96 points against Salford last season in the shade.

It was stunning stuff, but Warrington did not help themselves with some uncommitted tackling and fundamental errors, notably when Ian Knott, playing stand-off with Lee Briers on the bench, three times kicked into touch on the full. It was a miserable way for players like Tawera Nikau, Alan Hunte and Danny Nutley to make their final appearances at Wilderspool, with their coach, Steve Anderson, believing that had something to do with his team's appalling display.

"It was a pretty emotional dressing room before the match with players leaving and I don't think they really recovered,'' he said. "They didn't handle the emotional side of it real well.''

Warrington did get a try back through Kevin Crouthers after Briers was brought on, but Bradford added further touchdowns through Mackay, Withers and Scott Naylor before a relative lapse that saw them waste several chances before Shane Rigon got over the line.

Jamie Peacock, Pryce, Naylor and Withers completed the rout, with only a consolation effort from the returned Knott to cheer up the loyal Warrington fans in Wilderspool's biggest crowd of the season.

Despite some hopeful signs over the past few weeks, there is clearly much work for Anderson to do over the close season. As for Bradford, they have proved yet again what a mess they can make of teams who fail to compete with them physically. Now to see whether the same principles hold good all the way to the Grand Final.

Warrington Wolves: Penny; Crouthers, Swann, Kidwell, Hunte; Knott, Clarke; Masella, Nutley, Guisset, McCurrie, Moone, Nikau. Substitutes used: Sibbit, Briers, Hulse, Bates.

Bradford: Withers; Vaikona, Naylor, Mackay, Pryce; H Paul, R Paul; McDermott, Lowes, Vagana, Peacock, Gartner, Forshaw. Substitutes used: Anderson, Fielden, Rigon, Deacon.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).