Rugby League: Calland try increases Wigan's woe

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The Independent Online
Wigan Warriors 18 Bradford Bulls 22

Bradford, seemingly beaten by two quick tries from Wigan, came back with two in the last 10 minutes of a thrilling game to inflict a second consecutive home defeat on the game's faltering thoroughbreds.

The even more damaging statistic for Wigan is that they have now lost three games this season, virtually ruling them out of Super League contention. With St Helens beaten at Leeds, it was as good a night for the Bulls as they could have dared to imagine.

A low flying plane trailed a banner urging Wigan to stay at Central Park, but it was Bradford who made themselves at home first.

Paul Cook, kicking in place of the injured Steve McNamara, put over two early penalties before Andy Farrell replied with one for the home side.

The urgent probing for a more decisive breakthrough came to nothing as both sides' anxiety to grab the first try produced crucial handling errors whenever they got into the right positions.

It took an unorthodox intervention from Gary Connolly to break the deadlock. He snatched the ball from Paul Medley in the tackle and, moments later, Farrell's pass sent Simon Haughton striding through the tackles of Sonny Nickle and Danny Peacock to score.

Farrell's goal gave Wigan a four-point lead, which lasted only five minutes before a combination with James Lowes brought the alert Peacock an equalising try, Cook's kick putting them back in front.

With Jason Robinson and Darryl Cardiss, playing with heavily strapped ankles, there was a threadbare look about Wigan at the start of the second half.

The Bulls, more direct in their running and better at supporting the man with the ball, were unmistakably the more threatening side and they went a further two points ahead when Stephen Holgate was penalised for the unusual offence of removing Peacock's shorts.

Wigan had an escape when Graeme Bradley, a player who typified the problems Bradford were giving them, made a telling break down the middle only for the opportunity to be fumbled.

Wigan's character showed through when a tremendous set of tackles kept Bradford pinned in their own half. A penalty after the turn-over of possession gave Farrell a chance, which he fluffed with a surprisingly inaccurate goal attempt.

Wigan kept plugging away and midway through the half they got their reward, Tony Smith's pass allowing Haughton to go over for his second try.

Four minutes later, Nigel Wright, back after 20 injury-plagued months, linked with Farrell to send Smith in for his first Wigan try.

A couple of years ago, that would have convinced any visitors to Central Park that the game was up. Instead, it merely inspired Bradford. Peacock's second try, from Robbie Paul's pass, brought them within two points and Bradley's run then sucked in the defence to leave the substitute, Matt Calland, room to score in the corner.

Wigan Warriors: Robinson; A Johnson, Connolly, Radlinski, Cardiss; Smith, Murdock; O'Connor, Cassidy, Holgate, Haughton, Tallec, Farrell. Substitutes used: Murray, Wright, Hall, Baynes.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce; Cook, Peacock, Loughlin, Ekoku; Paul, Tomlinson; Anderson, Lowes, Reihana, Nickle, Dwyer, Bradley. Substitutes used: Medley, Wittenberg, Calland, Knox.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).

n Salford kept up their own 100 per cent record with 17-16 win over Sheffield Eagles to move into second place behind Bradford. The extra point came from Ian Watson's drop goal. St Helens lost their own perfect record after a 13-12 defeat at Leeds with another drop goal, Iestyn Harris' effort making the difference.