Rugby League: Bradford are prepared to test the best: Wire gamble fails

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Warrington. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Bradford Northern . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27

ANY lingering questions over which of these sides is equipped to challenge Wigan for the First Division championship were answered emphatically by half-time at Wilderspool yesterday.

A first half crackling with all the enterprise and intensity they lacked in their Challenge Cup tie at Leeds last week brought Bradford four tries and a lead they never looked likely to relinquish.

With two matches against Wigan now scheduled for one make-or- break week in April, they are now the team that those yearning for change at the top - as well as their own supporters - must pin their faith upon.

On yesterday's showing, that faith could yet be rewarded. Aided and abetted by Warrington's persistent inability to wrap up the man with the ball, they played some fluent and creative rugby, despite having to contend with a strong wind and the loss of David Heron to the sin-bin during the first half.

It was while Heron was absent that Bradford claimed the try that set them on their way, Paul Medley doing well to scoop up a Deryck Fox pass which went behind him and Darrall Shelford sending in their recent signing, Carl Hall, a superbly disguised kick from Fox created the second for Dave Watson before a dose of good fortune produced another which put paid to Warrington.

Fox's attempt at a clearing kick was charged down but retrieved by Karl Fairbank for Fox to link up and send Paul Newlove 50 yards to the try-line.

Immediately before half-time a flowing five-man move seemed to have ended when Brimah Kebbie was caught, but Fairbank set up Heron before Warrington could regroup. With Fox contributing two conversions and two drop goals, against two goals from Iestyn Harris Bradford were already in the clear.

Warrington's decision to play two days after they had four players in the Welsh side against France looked, at best, highly questionable. Rowland Phillips and Kevin Ellis would not have played in any event, but the absence of the inspirational Jonathan Davies with a 'dead' leg picked up in the opening minutes at Cardiff was enough to mark the gamble as a resounding failure.

Warrington did find some momentum after the break when a long run from Lee Penny would have brought a try if he had not lost his footing 10 yards from the line. They sustained their pressure, however, and Greg Mackey spotted a gap in the defence and dived through for their only try.

But Harris, who added that conversion, missed a simple penalty that would have brought Warrington within 10 points and another exquisite kick from Fox eluded the Warrington defence for Hall to touch down for his second.

Bradford played to their familiar strengths, with Fox feeding off some admirable work from his forwards. Warrington are now out of the running for the title, but, on this sort of form, Bradford could make the middle of April a very interesting time indeed, especially for Wigan.

Warrington: Penny; Forster, Bateman, Rudd, Harris; K Shelford, Mackey; Chambers (Jackson, 51; Teitzell, 75), Thursfield, Teitzell (Hilton, 25), Darbyshire, Jackson (Sanderson, 35), Elliott.

Bradford Northern: Watson; Hall, D Shelford, Newlove, Kebbie (McGowan, 65); Summers, Fox; Powell, Clarke, Grayshon (Hamer, 57), Medley, Fairbank, Heron.

Referee: J Connolly (Wigan).