ESL Round 26 wrap up

Round 26 of the ESL brought up some very close matches. Bradford in a nail biting win over the Rhinos have shown themselves worthy of the top spot.

Saturday's game;

St Helens 4-28 Wigan:

Wigan overcame a worrying injury to history-making skipper Andrew Farrell to complete a hat-trick of Super League victories over their arch rivals.

The Warriors maintained their unbeaten record under caretaker coach Mike Gregory and boosted their hopes of a second-placed finish.

It was a fifth defeat in the last six derbies for Saints, who were totally outclassed by their opponents, who are now just a point behind Leeds.

But Wigan were dealt an early blow when Farrell limped off after only three minutes with a twisted knee.

The Great Britain loose forward returned 16 minutes later after treatment and kicked a 32nd-minute penalty to become the first player to reach 2,000 points in Super League.

But he was forced off a second time just before the break and took no further part in the game.

Yet Wigan hardly needed their inspirational captain as they romped into a 20-0 half-time lead, thanks largely to a brace of tries from Irish winger Brian Carney.

Saints had their moments but failed to finish off some enterprising attacking moves and paid dearly for the 31st-minute sin-binning of second row forward Darren Smith.

Farrell punished Smith's error with his landmark penalty and, after St Helens winger Anthony Stewart unwisely tried to force a pass near his own line, Hock reached out of a two-man tackle to touch down.

Farrell's second goal made it 16-0 and it got even worse for the reigning champions when Carney collected a kick 10 metres from his own line and ran 90 metres for a glorious try.

Carney had earlier opened the scoring, racing onto a lofted kick to the corner from prop Quentin Pongia for a try converted by Danny Tickle.

Saints hooker Keiron Cunningham thought he had broken his side's duck when he reached the tryline two minutes into the second half but video referee Steve Cross decided he had failed to ground the ball.

The Warriors strengthened their grip on the game with Luke Robinson helping to set up Wigan's fourth try on 61 minutes, combining with Tickle to get second-rower Paul Johnson charging through a gap.

Tickle's third goal made it 26-0 before Smith claimed a consolation try for Saints on 64 minutes but Robinson wrapped up the scoring two minutes from the end with a penalty.

St Helens (0) 4 Try: Smith defeated by Wigan (20) 28 Tries: Carney 2, Johnson, Hock Goals: Tickle 3, Farrell 2, Robinson

Sunday's games;

Bradford 22-21 Leeds:

A last-gasp drop from Paul Deacon gave Bradford Bulls a dramatic victory over their arch-rivals and with it top spot in the Tetley's Super League.

Leeds had performed brilliantly to level the scores for a third time in the match and looked to have finally earned a deserved point when skipper Kevin Sinfield coolly slotted over the conversion to his own try.

But Deacon had the final say with his second one-pointer two minutes from the end to cruelly dash the hopes of the Rhinos and clinch a fourth win of the season over their bitter enemies in front of a third 20,000-plus crowd at Odsal.

The Bulls have now finished top of the table four times in eight years of Super League and have the League Leaders' Shield to add to their Challenge Cup triumph.

They could clinch a first ever Cup and Grand Final double at Old Trafford next month.

Leeds, meanwhile, led the table for most of the season but now find themselves under fierce pressure to hold off Wigan for second spot after winning just one of their last five matches.

Bradford (8) 22 Tries: Deacon, Reardon, Vainikolo Goals: Deacon 4 Drop Goals: Deacon 2 defeated Leeds (6) 21 Tries: McDonald, Poching, Sinfield Goals: Sinfield 4 Drop Goals: Sinfield

Warrington 40-18 Halifax:

Warrington Wolves maintained their top six challenge but were made to work hard for their victory over already-relegated Halifax at Wilderspool.

Warrington full-back Lee Penny crossed for the 100th try of his Warrington career after just two minutes but Halifax kicked back with a spectacular 90m try by winger Rikki Sheriffe.

Halifax led 18-16 at half-time and held that advantage until the 56th minute when Darren Burns touched down for his second try of the game and Graham Appo converted to make it 22-18.

Halifax then had Jaymes Chapman sin-binned for interference at the play-the-ball and the Wolves took full advantage as they scored three tries in seven minutes to seal the win.

Dean Gaskell, Martin Gleeson and Ben Westwood all touched down for the Wolves and Appo added all three conversions to give Warrington a flattering winning margin.

Letting their lead slip meant that Warrington equalled their club record of 25 successive defeats.

Warrington (16) 40 Tries: Penny, Westwood 2, Burns 2, Gaskell, Gleeson Goals: Appo 6 defeated Halifax (18) 18 Tries: R. Sheriffe 2, Finnerty Goals: Finn 3

Huddersfield 25-12 Widnes:

Departing stalwarts Jamie Bloem and Steve McNamara helped Tetley's Super League Huddersfield extend their impressive unbeaten home run to eight games.

Bloem, who has not been offered a contract for next season, scored a crucial try just after the visitors had drawn level at 12-12 in the second half.

And McNamara - who is leaving the McAlpine Stadium for a coaching role at Bradford next term - won it with a well taken drop goal 10 minutes from time.

Paul March's last minute converted try gave an unfair look to the scoreline - which does not reflect the closeness of a tough battle between two evenly matched sides.

The Giants have now secured seven wins and a draw from their last eight home outings since being on the wrong end of a 52-6 thumping by Bradford back in May.

Australian-born referee Ashley Klein's strange penalty decision just before the break helped dent the Vikings' flagging play-off hopes.

Klein ruled out substitute David Mills' seemingly legitimate try for failing to ground the ball properly after crossing the line.

The official, after consulting with a touch judge, awarded the visitors a penalty instead - given for offside against Huddersfield during an earlier move.

Debutant Stephen Myler kicked the goal but the loss of two points at that vital stage cost Widnes dearly in a tight encounter.

Huddersfield (8) 25 Tries: Reilly, O'Hare, March, Bloem Goals: Bloem, McNamara (3) Drops: McNamara defeated Widnes (6) 12 Tries: Hughes, Demetriou Goals: Myler (2)

London Broncos 38-14 Wakefield Trinity Wildcats:

Dennis Moran's fourth hat-trick of the season consolidated London Broncos' push for a top-six finish.

The Broncos ran in seven tries to comprehensively outclass their visitors at Griffin Park.

They had twice gone close before they opened the scoring after 15 minutes when Joel Caine and Chris Thorman worked an opening for Moran to turn Sylvain Houles inside out before touching down.

The Wildcats hit back three minutes later when scrum-half Ben Jeffries broke Moran's tackle to cross in the corner.

The Moran-Thorman partnership again opened up the Wildcats' defence after 30 minutes to create a chance for Nigel Roy.

The Broncos further increased their lead six minutes later when Steele Retchless provided the pass for Tony Martin to touch down.

The Wildcats pulled the score back a minute before half-time when Houles caught his former club-mates short out wide and Matt Wray crossed in the corner.

Moran, 11 minutes into the second half, went over from close range for his second try of the game.

Four minutes later Andrew King touched down Jim Dymock's chip to open up an 18-point lead.

Moran then completed his second hat-trick of the season against the Wildcats on the hour mark from another Dymock pass.

Caine added his name to the list of scorers seven minutes from time with his first try for the Broncos when Thorman's kick out wide picked him out unmarked.

The Wildcats grabbed a last-minute consolation when Colum Halpenny broke the Broncos' line before providing a pass for David March to score.

London (16) 38 Tries: Moran 3, Roy, Martin, King, Caine Goals: Thorman 5 defeated Wakefield (8) 14 Tries: Jeffries, Wray, March Goals: Rooney.

Hull 32-12 Castleford:

Hull kept themselves firmly in the Tetley's Super League play-off race by grinding out victory over Castleford.

Gareth Raynor and Ewan Dowes both crossed for Shaun McRae's side in the first half, but it took the reliable kicking of Paul Cooke to secure the points at the KC Stadium.

Stand-off Cooke landed seven goals, including three important penalties to kill off a Tigers revival sparked by Francis Maloney and Andy Lynch tries.

Shayne McMenemy and Richard Horne forced their way over for further Hull touchdowns late on to leave the Tigers facing an uphill challenge to reach the top six.

Castleford now have just two games to secure a play-off spot and with those coming against Bradford and Wigan, they face an uphill task.

Hull (16) 32 Tries: Raynor, Dowes, McMenemy, R. Horne Goals: Cooke 7, Greenhill


Castleford (4) 12 Tries: Maloney, Lynch Goals: Orr 2