Rugby League: Wigan halt Bulls' charge

Bradford 18 Wigan 33
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The Independent Online
Bradford lost their perfect record in Super League yesterday as Wigan produced a second-half performance that recalled the times, not so long ago, when they were the side that was almost unbeatable.

Down by 18-0 shortly before half-time, Wigan were inspired by Jason Robinson and Andy Farrell to a fightback that showed that there is still the germ of greatness alive within the club. The timing, at the end of a week when they have been rocked by board-room upheavals, could hardly have been better. Even their departed chairman, Jack Robinson, there in his new capacity as a supporter, had a spring in his stride at the end.

One of the most remarkable turnarounds of this or any other season began two minutes before the break when Farrell and Robinson combined for the try that pegged back the first six points. The two players do not have the quality around them that they once enjoyed, but they will rarely play better individual games for the club than this.

Even Henry Paul, who has been such a disappointment this season, recovered a little of his old spark to find a gap from dummy half that brought Wigan right back into contention 13 minutes after the break. The truly pivotal moment came just two minutes later, Matt Calland kicking through for Bradford and Robinson picking up to race away for a magnificent 60-yard effort.

With the scores level, the momentum was with Wigan and a pass from the magnificent Farrell saw Andy Johnson release Gary Connolly for the try that put them ahead. With Bradford down to 10 men after James Lowes had been sent to the sin bin, Farrell completed a tally of six place-kicks from as many attempts, added a drop goal and also supplied the pass for Neil Cowie to touch down.

"They have been marvellous all season in trying circumstances," said the Wigan coach, Eric Hughes, of Farrell and Robinson. "They lifted everyone today - but I've always said that we still had the ability to beat anyone in Super League."

It did not look that way in the first half when Bradford battered a nervous Wigan to the extent that a mere 18-point lead looked scant reward. Jon Scales scored within a minute of the start, with Lowes and Bernard Dwyer adding further tries. The way that Bradford had three others disallowed - Lowes twice and Danny Peacock - seemed irrelevant, there would surely be more along soon. Instead, an extraordinary recovery by Wigan denied them their piece of history as the first team to win every game in the top division.

"Ah, well," said one Bulls' supporter, "you can't win them all." For at least one more season, that remains true.

Bradford: Spruce; Ekoku, Calland, Peacock, Scales; Bradley, Tomlinson; McDermott, Lowes, Wittenberg, Dwyer, Forshaw, McNamara. Substitutes used: R Paul, Anderson, Knox, Graham.

Wigan: Robinson; A Johnson, Connolly, Radlinski, Ellison; H Paul, Murdock; Hensen, Hall, Cowie, Haughton, Cassidy, Farrell. Substitutes used: Clarke, Holgate, Tallec, P Johnson.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).

Round-up, results, page 21