Rugby League: Inspired Bradford surprise inept Wigan: Careless hands open up championship race

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The Independent Online
Bradford Northern. . . . . . . . . . . . . .23

Wigan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

BRADFORD Northern, Wigan's Challenge Cup semi-final opponents in nine days time, threw the First Division championship open again by surviving a late fightback to register a well-deserved victory at Odsal last night.

For three-quarters of the match Wigan gave one of their very rare inept performances to end a 12-match winning streak and give St Helens new hope that they could yet overhaul them in the run in.

An inspired Bradford were helped by some uncharacteristically careless handling from Wigan and their first try came when Denis Betts lost the ball in his own 25. Watson supplied the pass and Karl Firbank twisted out of a two-man tackle to score.

Northern's second try was a messier affair, Neil Summers kicking through and Roy Powell also getting a toe to the ball before Firbank beat him to the touchdown. David Hobbs landed the shot.

A Hobbs drop-goal kept Bradford on the move and a brilliantly executed attack by Darrall Shelford and Tony Anderson put Tony Marchant over for their third try before half- time, Hobbs again converting.

Bradford weathered Wigan's pressure for the crucial first 10 minutes of the second half and then struck again. Roger Simpson took advantage of a slack defensive line to race through and find Paul Medley in support, Hobbs adding the goal to put Northern 19 points ahead.

Shelford and Mick Taylor both went close as Bradford continued to pound their opponents, but a dazzling solo drive from Wigan's most dangerous player, Jason Robinson, gave them some hope 16 minutes from the end. Neil Cowie was barged over three minutes later, Wigan's substitute goal kicker, Andrew Farrell, converting for the second time.

Bradford Northern: Simpson, Taylor, Marchant, Shelford, Anderson, Summers, Watson, Hobbs, Noble (Clark, 59), Haymer, Howell, Fairbank, Medley. Substitute not used: Heron.

Wigan: Robinson, Turner (Farrell, 40), Betts, Farrar, Offiah, Edwards, Crompton, Cowie, Dermott, Platt, Cassidy, McGinty (Mather, 12), Clarke.

Referee: R Whitfield (Widnes).