Rugby League: Wigan in different class

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Wigan 38 Bradford 4

IF ANYONE should be delighted that the Super League title is no longer to be decided on a first-past-the-post basis, it ought to be Bradford.

Under the old regime, Wigan would have made all but mathematically certain of succeeding the Bulls as champions last night. More to the point, it is hard to see anyone, including Leeds, who have beaten Wigan twice in the League, living with them in this form during the play-offs.

Certainly not Bradford, who will qualify in fifth place despite this defeat, but who showed all too clearly their current limitations. They work hard enough throughout, but when it came to incisive rugby there was only one team in action at Central Park.

Wigan got major contributions from stars old and new, starting with John Johnson, the young centre making only his fourth start of the season, and demonstrating his great potential with their first two tries.

Tony Smith's well-timed pass gave him the opportunity for his first and after Jeremy Donougher had lost the ball, an equally clever kick from Robbie McCormack set up his second.

Johnson was under pressure for his place last night, now that the regular centre, Gary Moore, is fit again. "But he's been playing so well that he forced us to pick him," Wigan's coach, John Monie said.

Andy Farrell's first four goals helped Wigan establish a comfortable lead by half-time and they produced some expansive rugby in the second half to show they are worthy League leaders.

McCormack's break, Jason Robinson's crossfield run and Tony Mestrov's pass gave Simon Haughton one try, and Mestrov scored his first for the club from Gary Connelly's pass.

Bradford again started with Robbie Paul on the bench but he was involved, with Stuart Spruce, in the move that gave Abi Ekoku, their most dangerous player, a deserved try.

That was only a brief interruption, Johnson again showing his pace with a long break through centre field that led to Connelly going over for the first of two late tries. It was a break from Henry Paul, who is to join Bradford next season, that gave him his second. Whichever way it is calculated, it looked suspiciously like ex-champions versus future champions.

To make matters worse for Bradford, their hooker, James Lowes, was taken to hospital with serious concussion, keeping him out of the first play- off match against St Helens in two weeks' time. With Bernard Dwyer and Mike Forshaw also injured, it is not Bradford's year, but it could well be Wigan's.

Wigan: Radlinski, Robinson, Connolly, Johnson, Bell, H Paul, Smith, O'Connor, McCormack, Mestrov, Gilmour, Holgate, Farrell. Substitutes used: Moore, Clarke, Haughton, Baynes.

Bradford: Spruce, Graham, Ekoku, McAvoy, Scales, Bradley, Deacon, Harmon, Lowes, Howard, Forshaw, Dwyer, McNamara. Substitutes used: R Paul, Medley, Reihana, Donougher

Referee: R Smith (Castleford)

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