19 hours ago - 1 Likes
Vainikolo to the Rescue
Warrington 22 Bradford 22 Super winger Lesley Vainikolo was the hero for Super League champions Bradford as they came from 18-6 down to steal a point and leave Warrington skipper Lee Briers rueing an off day with the boot.
The New Zealand international, who arrived back from Test duty in Australia only 48 hours earlier, pounced for his 13th try of the season just 3 minutes from the end to tie the scores for a second time.
Scrum-half Paul Deacon was off target for the first time as he attempted to claim both points for the Bulls and, in a breathless finale, full-back Michael Withers was narrowly wide with a last-minute drop-goal attempt.
While the relieved champions will be happy to leave the Halliwell Jones Stadium with a point, the outcome was harsh on Warrington, who scored five tries to four but managed just a solitary goal from the otherwise magnificent Briers.
The Bulls made a dream start when hooker Aaron Smith was gifted a try after just 90 seconds but they then spent the rest of the game on the back foot and looked set for a third defeat in four games as skipper Briers inspired the below-strength Wolves to new heights.
The Welsh international, who is defying a broken finger to lead his side, scored an individual try and helped set up the other four as Warrington played the champions off the park.
Yet the visitors got off to a perfect start, profiting from a blunder by makeshift full-back Gary Hulse, who dropped the greasy ball a metre from his own line as he attempted a clearing run.
Paul Deacon, shrugging off a foot injury, improved Smith's simple touchdown to make it 6-0 but it was virtually all Warrington from then onwards as the skilful Briers took a hand.
Nathan Wood and Mark Hilton were both denied by video referee Ian Ollerton, who was called to make decisions eight times in all, before Briers jinked his way over on 19 minutes to end a sustained spell of pressure.
And it was inevitable when the Wolves, aiming to end a six-match losing run at the hands of the champions, went in front with the aid of two tries in three minutes.
Young winger Richard Varkulis finished powerfully after Briers' long pass had opened up a gap and then centre Brent Grose marked his return from injury by pouncing on Briers' kick to the line.
When Grose went for his second try, courtesy of another dream pass from Briers, three minutes into the second half, there seemed no way back for the champions.
But the home fans were forced to endure an anxious time when Withers followed up Vainikolo's kick to score a try, which Deacon converted to cut the gap to just six points.
Briers, clearly sensing a tight finish, was wide with two drop-goal attempts before Withers supported a break by centre Paul Johnson to claim his second try, to which Deacon added his third goal.
The 8,111 crowd were sure Warrington had finally secured victory when winger Dean Gaskell pounced on another accurate kick to the corner from Briers but Vainikolo powered past a trio of defenders in trademark fashion for the all-important score.