Warrington 23 Bradford 4: Briers helps Wolves spoil start to McNamara's reign at Bradford

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The Independent Online

A stirring finish by Warrington denied Steve McNamara any chance of becoming the second Super League coach of the weekend to mark his first game in charge with a victory.

A match which was far from pretty but always absorbing was hanging in the balance until the last 10 minutes. The Wolves, victorious at Odsal two weeks ago, were ahead by just six points when Lee Briers, at his third attempt, put over a crucial drop goal.

That was the signal for Bradford, affected by the drama surrounding the departure of Brian Noble and without the injured Paul Deacon in the second half, to fold, conceding three tries in the time remaining.

Warrington took advantage of Iestyn Harris putting his kick-off straight into touch by taking the ball straight back to the other end for Paul Wood to score from Jon Clarke's pass.

Then Clarke broke from a scrum to send Martin Gleeson over for his second try of the afternoon and an exhausted Bradford defence was powerless to stop Ben Westwood repeating the operation by releasing Briers down the blind side in the last minute.

The resounding nature of the victory was a reward for the hard work the Wolves had put in to stop the Bulls in the first 70 minutes of the game.

"Our defence was superb," said their coach, Paul Cullen. "It's a big statement, but we're a little bit disappointed that we didn't nil them. They are world champions; that's what it says on their badge and we're desperate to drag ourselves up to that level."

Warrington were helped a little by a mystifying decision to send Terry Newton to the sin bin after only three minutes. There was no doubt that Briers was tackled late, but the culprit was Brett Ferres.

"I don't know whether his previous record or his reputation went before him," said McNamara.

The Bulls went behind to Gleeson's first try during Newton's absence and fell further in arrears when Westwood scored from Briers' clever kick.

But after Michael Wainwright was sent to the bin for delaying tactics, Bradford got one back through Marcus Bai, who got outside his marker to score from Harris' kick.

The game went into a prolonged period of trench warfare from that point and Bradford were at a disadvantage when Deacon was carried off at half-time with what could be serious ankle ligament damage.

"We were low on energy," said McNamara, who admitted that recent events seemed to have taken their toll. "This is what I want to do and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, apart from the result. It wasn't the best of starts, but I can't fault any of them for effort."

It will be a relief to him that his immediate coaching commitments do not involve facing Warrington again. That is four in a row Bradford have lost to opponents who seem to reserve their best for the Bulls.

Warrington: Reardon; Fa'afili, Martin Gleeson, Grose, Barnett; Briers, Sullivan; Rauhihi, Clarke, Wood, Swann, Wainwright, Westwood. Substitutes used: Grix, Mark Gleeson, Parker, Leikvoll.

Bradford: Withers; Bai, B Harris, Hape, Vainikolo; I Harris, Deacon; Fielden, Newton, Lynch, Ferres, Johnson, Langley. Substitutes used: Henderson, Gene, Kopczak, Vagana.

Referee: A Klein (Keighley).