Wigan 30 Bradford 14: Wigan progress after making themselves at home

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The Independent Online

Wigan made light of their exile in Widnes by progressing in the Super League play-offs, despite sacrificing home advantage.

Second best for the first half hour, the Warriors finally responded to the promptings of their captain, Trent Barrett, to end Bradford's season and set up a meeting with Warrington or the Catalan Dragons next weekend.

Wigan made the best of the whole sorry saga of being unable to play at their own ground by sticking a poster above the players' tunnel at the Stobart Stadium.

"This is Wigan" might have been a geographical inexactitude, but it was one that made it feel a little more like home.

"Whelan – Never Forgive, Never Forget," read another, strictly unofficial one, to show what the club's supporters made of their unscheduled journey.

There was nothing in the first half-hour to make Wigan feel comfortable in their temporary surroundings. Paul Deacon gave Bradford the lead with a penalty and the Bulls also had a Chris Nero try disallowed for Semi Tadulala's marginal knock-on.

The scoreline only began to reflect Bradford's superiority when Andy Lynch took a pass from Terry Newton and went straight through Harrison Hansen's tackle for a converted try.

Wigan did not create anything resembling a chance until Lynch unnecessarily obstructed Barrett after half an hour. From the penalty, they applied their first real pressure and Thomas LEuluai lunged over.

The last ten minutes of the half belonged to Wigan, with Barrett stopped on the line in a two-man tackle before Joe Vagana's fumble gave them another inviting attacking position and Harrison went in for their second converted try from Tim Smith's slick pass. Widnes was beginning to feel a little more like home.

Bradford suffered another blow when Deacon, the victim of a late-ish challenge from Stuart Fielden in the first half, failed to reappear for the second.

Within five minutes they were further behind, the increasingly influential Barrett kicking through with precision and Mark Calderwood, scorer of a hat-trick in this same fixture last season, forcing the ball down just before it could run dead.

Lynch had a second try disallowed for Newton's forward pass, but there was nothing wrong with the one that put Simon Finnigan over as the Bulls fought back.

Wigan had few scoring chances after that and spurned one when Pat Richards missed a penalty he would normally land. Then, on a rare raid, another superb Barrett kick caught the Bulls out again, Calderwood collecting and slipping it inside for Joel Tomkins as the chant rang out: "There's only one team in Wigan." There was extra volume in the celebrations when Gareth Hock went in to seal their place in the next round, when they will, if required, be able to play at home.

Wigan: Mathers; Calderwood, Phelps, Carmont, Richards; Barrett, Leuluai; Fielden, Higham, Coley, Bailey, Hansen, Tomkins. Substitutes used: Paleaaesina, Hock, O'Carroll, Smith.

Bradford: Platt; Evans, Sykes, Nero, Tadulala; Jeffries, Deacon; Vagana, Newton, Lynch, Solomona, Finnigan, Langley.Substitutes used: Harris, Morrison, Cook, Kopczak.

Referee: A Klein (Keighley)

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