Bradford are becoming specialists in heroic failure.
After their defeat in the Challenge Cup final in April, they again played
a full part in a classic match on Saturday only to finish empty-handed.
The Bulls looked the more convincing team in this
pulsating Premiership semi-final, but it will be Wigan who play at Old
Trafford on Sunday, because of the continuing ability of Shaun Edwards to
seize on any scraps made fleetingly available.
Edwards' four tries were the difference between two
sides full of attacking invention and defensive frailty. At least two were
the product of startling pace from a player approaching 30 and with a
Take Edwards' opportunism out of the equation and
Bradford would have been holding a farewell for departing coach, Brian
Smith, at Manchester United. The qualities with which he has imbued them -
especially a resilience and ability to attack across the full width of the
field - were always in evidence.
But so was Wigan's anxiety to avoid a season without
a trophy. It all made for a spectacle which had Edwards marvelling at
rugby league's failure to grab the imagination of the whole nation.
By contrast, his successor as Wigan captain, Andy
Farrell, said that, when it came to perennial Wigan strengths such as
controlling the ball and keeping their shape in defence, their performance
had been rubbish. It truly is a funny old game - because both of them were
Wigan: Radlinski; Ellison, Tuigamala, Connolly,
Robinson; H Paul, Edwards; Cowie, Hall, O'Connor, Haughton, Cassidy,
Farrell. Substitutes used: Skerrett, Barrow.
Bradford Bulls: Cook; Tamani, Calland, Loughlin,
Scales; Bradley, R Paul; Fairbank, Lowes, McDermott, Nickle, Dwyer,
McNamara. Substitutes used: Graham, Donougher, Tomlinson, Medley.
Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).