Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Ex-Canberra player, Lesley Vainikolo, enjoyed the majority of the spoils of the victory scoring an amazing five tries, in front of a crowd of over 17,000 at Odsal Stadium in freezing conditions.
Wigan started the clash in positive style, holding off the Bradford attack before then forcing a line drop out just after four minutes. The Bulls then lost Shontayne Hape just a few minutes later, indicating that the home side may struggle to win the clash.
At the end of the first quarter, the only difference between the two sides was one penalty shot, scored by Michael Withers following interference from Sean O'Loughlin in the 15th minute.
Wigan?s tactics in the match at the start were questionable, with the team conceding seven penalties in the opening 19 minutes, the seventh resulted in Luke Robinson being sin-binned for offside. Bradford capitalised with the one man overlap in the 27th minute with Jamie Peacock making a break up the middle of the field before the ball was swung out right through Pryce and then onto Withers to score.
Bulls prop Stuart Fielden saw a fine chance go begging when he charged through a gap, his support players over-running him, while Brian Carney was unable to take a Radlinski grubber close to the line at the other end.
Bradford took a 12 ? 0 lead into the break when Vainikolo leaped above Carney to a Karl Pratt kick to open his scoring for the night. Vainikolo quickly added his second try just nine minutes after the restart of play, racing onto a Pratt chip, and running between Carney and Radlinski to score.
Aaron Smith collected his first try since playing for Bradford in the 54th to put the home team up 20 ? 0 and put the match really into their favour.
Vainikolo helped seal the game in the 60th minute, when he crossed for his 3rd putting the score at 26 ? 0 after Withers? added the extras.
Wigan scored their first points onto the line when Craig Smith made a break offloading it to former Castleford player, Danny Orr who scored and converted his own try. The match was all over however and when Vainikolo collected two more tries in the final five minutes off the match.
The first came off an Orr bomb, which he collected, before racing the length of the field to score.
Bulls coach Brian Noble said on the match, "I am pleased for Lesley. On his day, he is the best winger in world rugby. He's special and he brings colour and excitement to the game. He added: "I am very pleased with the win. To get up emotionally after last weekend was a big challenge, and they have got up.
"The defence was pretty solid and full credit to Wigan, I don't think the scoreline does them justice and they will be a force to be reckoned with this season."
Warriors coach Mike Gregory said: "We are not a bad team, we just played badly tonight, but the effort was there.
"For a first hit-out, I'd say it was a bad day at the office. Our composure on the ball was very average, and Bradford are a very well drilled side who counter-attacked us very well and probably got what they deserved."
BRADFORD BULLS 34 Tries: Vainikolo 5, Withers, Smith Goals: Withers 3 Team: Michael Withers, Tevita Vaikona, Paul Johnson, Shontayne Hape, Lesley Vainikolo, Leon Pryce, Karl Pratt, Stuart Fielden, Aaron Smith, Paul Anderson, Lee Radford, Jamie Langley, Jamie Peacock (c). Subs: Joe Vagana, Rob Parker, Stuart Reardon, Toa Kohe-Love. defeated WIGAN WARRIORS 6 Tries: Orr Goals: Orr Team: Kris Radlinski (c), Brett Dallas, Martin Aspinwall, Stephen Wild, Brian Carney, Danny Orr, Luke Robinson, Quentin Pongia, Terry Newton, Craig Smith, Danny Tickle, Gareth Hock, Sean O'Loughlin. Subs: Danny Sculthorpe, Kevin Brown, Terry O'Connor, Mark Smith. Venue: Odsal Stadium (Bradford) Crowd: 17,205 Date: Fri Feb 20 8.00pm Referee: Russell Smith (Castleford) Half time: Bradford 12-0