Vainikolo gives Bradford the perfect start

Bradford Bulls 34 Wigan Warriors 6
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A Super League record equalling five tries from the unstoppable Lesley Vainikolo spearheaded an awesome performance from Bradford as they swept Wigan aside in the second half here last night.

The Bulls might have started slowly, but the power and pace of Vainikolo saw them pull clear in commanding style to show how hard they are going to be to stop in the new season.

The match started in a surprisingly scrappy fashion with Bradford looking anything but world champions. They took the lead, however, after 15 minutes when their stand-in hooker, Michael Withers, put over an easy penalty after Sean O'Loughlin was punished for interfering at the play-the-ball.

There is a lot of untidiness around that area of play and Wigan suffered a further setback when their scrum-half, Luke Robinson, was sent to the sin-bin for offside.

Wigan were having plenty of possession in Bradford's territory, but, despite the effort of their new playmaker, Danny Orr, they could make nothing of it.

When one attack ran out of steam, Bradford took a quick restart to catch Wigan unawares and take the ball to the other end where Leon Pryce made the telling break to set up Withers for the game's first try which the Australian full-back also converted.

Wigan's best chance came when Kris Radlinski breached the Bradford defence and put in a low kick for Brian Carney who could not quite scoop it up as he dived for the line.

Bradford extended their lead two minutes before the break when Karl Pratt launched a high kick towards the corner. Carney got up highest but could not hang onto the ball, giving Vainikolo the chance to scoop up the ball and plant it over the line.

A 12-point lead made it a more than satisfactory first 40 minutes' work for the Bulls, tempered by the sight of an ambulance taking Shontayne Hape to hospital with a suspected broken arm.

Bradford made the game safe early in the second half with Pratt's perfectly judged chip kick giving Vainikolo his second. Aaron Smith then showed trickery worthy of his illustrious predecessor, James Lowes, by spinning in the tackle and sneaking over in the corner.

After Vainikolo completed his hat-trick by barging over from close range, Orr got a face saver for Wigan when he took Craig Smith's pass, but Vainikolo underlined Bradford's superiority in the last few minutes. First, he plucked Orr's kick out of the air to go the length of the field and then took Pryce's long pass to get over in the corner.

Bradford: Withers; Vaikona, Johnson, Happe, Vainikolo; Pryce, Pratt; Anderson, A Smith, Fielden, Radford, Peacock, Langley. Substitutes: Riardon, Kohe-Love, Vagana, Parker.

Wigan: Radlinski; Dallas, Aspinwall, Wild, Carney; Orr, Robinson; Pongia, Newton, C Smith, Tickle, Hock, O'Loughlin. Substitutes: Sculthorpe, Brown, O'Connor, M Smith.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).