Richards runs Bulls ragged as Wigan enjoy a lap of honour

Wigan 34 Bradford 12
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The Independent Online

Wigan prefaced the presentation of the Super League Leaders' Trophy with a convincing victory last night over one of the few teams to have beaten them this season.

The lap of honour around the DW Stadium was almost as strenuous as the match, with Bradford, for all their honest endeavour, unable to compete.

Pat Richards' two tries and three goals made it a night of milestones for him, but his and other players' thoughts will have wandered from time to time to next weekend, when Leeds or Hull will be the visitors in the first round of the play-offs.

If it was a night of celebration for Wigan, then Bradford's last-minute victory over them in March was one of the very few things worth recalling in an otherwise profoundly depressing season. Like many clubs, they will have a considerable turnover of players during the winter, with Super League's oldest player, Steve Menzies, one who knew he was making his last appearance for them last night.

Wigan put themselves under pressure by conceding an early penalty, however, and it took them some time to start looking like table-toppers. They were starting to click into gear when Sam Tomkins had what looked like a typically opportunist try disallowed for an obscure obstruction and, after 14 minutes, they did take the lead. Bradford's problems started when Joel Tomkins intercepted from Andy Lynch. The Warriors worked the ball methodically to the other end, with Thomas Leuluai and Liam Farrell combining to send George Carmont over.

The second try was the work of two of Wigan's departing players, with Mark Riddell's weaving run from dummy-half giving the crowd the chance to acclaim one of their favourites, the Salford-bound Iafeta Paleaaesina, whose popularity has been unaffected by his paucity of playing time.

Sean O'Loughlin provided the perfect cut-out pass for Pat Richards to cruise in for his 28th try of the season, a Super League regular season record for the club and a marker for the huge contribution he has made this year.

Bradford's resistance was starting to look flimsy by the time that Joel Tomkins took Leuluai's pass to brush through some weak tackling. The difference between Super League XV's successes and failures was all too apparent by half-time.

Richards was over again straight after the break, thanks to Riddell's surging run and the former Bulls hero Paul Deacon's pinpoint kick. It was as well for the Bulls that he was having a rare off-day with his goal-kicking, missing a third attempt in a row.

Farrell's knock-on spoilt what promised to be a spectacular length-of-the-field try as Wigan threatened to run riot and Carmont's pass and Richards' kick ahead almost produced No 30 for the Irish winger.

The game had lapsed into a curious, half-paced tempo, but Bradford at least deserved some credit for not falling apart completely. They could do little about it, though, when Leuluai's lofted pass sent Darrell Goulding into a vacant right corner, with Richards' conversion from the touchline bringing him level with Andy Farrell's record for the most points by anyone in a regular Super League season.

Craig Kopczak brought Bradford a late consolation, but knocked on from the restart to invite Goulding to reply. That gave Richards another difficult kick, which he could not quite nail to break Farrell's record. Lynch's last-minute effort gave a little more gloss to Bradford's part in proceedings.

Wigan: S Tomkins; Goulding, Marsh, Carmont, Richards; Deacon, Leuluai; Fielden, Riddell, Coley, Farrell, J Tomkins, O'Loughlin. Substitutes used Paleaaesina, Prescott, Tuson, Gleeson.

Bradford: Platt; Sheriffe, Sykes, Menzies, Finigan; Kearney, L'Estrange; Scruton, Godwin, Lynch, Worrincy, Whitehead, Langley.Substitutes used Hall, Olbison, Kopczak, Addy.

Referee J Child (Dewsbury).