Well the fact it was blowing a gale didn't help
this contest what so ever but overall I thought it was a poor
display from Wigan. Bradford fans meanwhile are hailing this loss
as their best performance of the season and seem very proud of that
I think it's fair to say that the Bulls defended
far better than most would have expected, given their recent form,
so having played poor I think we should be pleased to have gotten
through to the Quarter Finals, which stupidly don't take place till
I'm noticing that Bulls coach Mick Potter claims
the red card to Gareth Raynor was a "turning point" in this match.
Personally I'm not so sure, because only one of Wigan's five tries
came whilst we had a man advantage and Bradford claimed three of
their four tries whilst they were a man short.
From a Wigan point of view, I don't think the
red card changed the game at all and that is disappointing. We
struggled to create anything after Sam Tomkins left the field and I
thought the pack lacked punch all afternoon. Just a really poor
display I thought, but we got the win and I think that's all that
matters in cup rugby.
Coach Michael Maguire made a couple of changes
with Darrell Goulding replacing the injured George Carmont at left
centre and Paul Prescott returning to the bench at the expense of
It looked like Wigan had got off to a great
start and they should have taken the lead after just 80 seconds of
the contest. Ryan Hoffman's pass sent Pat Richards over in the left
corner but you have to credit Michael Platt who dislodged the bal
before he could ground it.
After that, the early stages turned into a
midfield tussle with very little attacking action. That was until
the 10th minute when, kicking into the gale, Sam Tomkins fumbled a
last tackle kick from Kyle Briggs. Two passes later, Elliott
Whitehead was over for the score, which was given by the video
referee. Patrick Ah Van converted to make it 6-0.
The game continued to be bogged down in midfield
with very little happening until the 19th minute. It was possibly
Wigan's first real attack since that no try early on but a familiar
move got Pat over this time. Mike McIlorum received the play the
ball under the posts, he threw left to Thomas Leuluai, who in turn
found Sean O'Loughlin. You know the rest, he loves his long cut out
passes and he by-passed two attackers to create the overlap for the
winger, i.e Pat. to score from. Easy touch down, but in the wind it
was not an easy conversion and his kick went wide.
A knock on from McIlorum put Wigan on the back
foot straight after that try but although Bradford forced a drop
out they couldn't claim a try. A few minutes later, Wigan
themselves forced a drop out, after a towering bomb from Richards
was allowed to bounce, but Bradford themselves survived that
It was at this point that coach Maguire switched
things with Paul Deacon coming off the bench to replace Mike
McIlorum and thus Leuluai switched to hooker. Within two minutes of
that change, Wigan took the lead for the first time.
Deacon's pass found Brett Finch who in turn sent
Ryan Hoffman on the half break. He was well tackled by Jamie
Langley but got a beautiful offload away to send Sam Tomkins away.
Sam's nifty footwork completely mugged three Bulls defenders but in
the process of scoring he was hit high on the cheek by a desperate
Raynor's swinging arm had knocked Sam out cold
and he couldn't really complain at being given the red card by
referee Steve Ganson. I do think further suspension would be harsh,
I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt that it was a
mistimed rather than a malicious challenge, but what baffles me is
why a rare 8 point try wasn't awarded? This is what the RFL's rules
state on that issue.....
"If a player fouls an
opponent who is touching down for a try, a penalty kick at goal
shall be taken from in front of the goal posts after the attempt to
convert the try."
If that is not "fouling an opponent who is
touching down for a try", what is?
Like I said, the challenge had knocked Sam
unconscious and ended his afternoon but that still didn't stop some
opposition fans on social media accusing him of faking it!
Seriously.......go to your room and shut up!
The game was drifting towards half time but
Ganson piped up again four minutes before the break to produce
another card. This time it was a yellow for Jeff Lima for apparent
"contact with head" although you can't see anything on the TV
replays. This was given on the advice of touch judge Tim Roby and
it was right in front of him so you have to take his word. Wigan
had been warned twice that action was on the way so it shouldn't
really have been a surprise.
Although no further scoring would take place
before half time, Lima's yellow card still meant the first 6
minutes of the second half would be a 12 v 12 contest and it was
during this period (not whilst it was 13 v 12) that Wigan won the
game I think. They scored two quick back to back tries to put
themselves 22-6 ahead.
First, on 43 minutes, Finch did well to trap a
kick from Kyle Briggs with his feet. He scooped up and race 80
metres unopposed for the third try of his Wigan career so far.
Then, on just the third tackle after the restart, Wigan went left
with Finch, Richards and Hoffman combining to send Darrell Goulding
on the half break. Ball in one hand and heading into touch, he
brilliantly offloaded to send Richards clear under the posts from
thirty metres out. Pat took the piss out of the lazy last defender
by rounding him off to touch down under the sticks. He converted
both those tries for the 22-6 lead.
Now at this point your thinking Lima is about to
return, we've a 22-6 lead and now will have a man advantage. It was
pretty reasonable to expect Wigan to just burst clear now and rack
up an easy win in the end. Didn't happen though. Credit to
Bradford, they kept going but Wigan never really kicked on and,
like I said earlier, that was disappointing.
What gave Bradford the hope of a comeback was
the fact they hit back within two minutes. Not helped by the wind,
Wigan had let the ball bounce dead and Bradford marched up field
with the help of a penalty after the drop out. Patrick Ah Van
claimed a try in the right corner, after a good offload from Ben
Jeffries, then he converted from the sideline to make it 22-12.
Wigan could have hit straight back themselves but although Chris
Tuson touched the ball down, it had clearly gone dead.
After that Wigan had opportunities to kill the
game but really lacked patience and were creating too many errors.
I still thought 22-12 was a comfortable winning position for us but
all that changed when Bradford claimed another try on 64 minutes.
Nice try as well. Kyle Briggs put a lovely
grubber in towards the posts and Shad Royston touched down. Easy
conversion for Ah Van left the score at just 22-18 to Wigan with 15
This game was now massively in the balance and
for the next ten minutes or so the sides just traded possession
with very few attacking chances but a Bradford error on half way
helped Wigan towards the winning score.
Wigan had ground their way towards the line and
had reached the last tackle but they got a "back to one" after
Jeffries raced out to try and block a kick that never materialised.
From that, Liam Farrell put in a couple of good hit ups before
being sent in by Finch at close range. Pat's conversion missed but
an 8 point lead with five minutes to go was always too much, unless
we were going to get the irony of all ironies with an 8 point
Bradford try - you just never know with Ganson in the middle.
Bradford did claim a consolation try but it came
too late, with just 21 seconds remaining, as Ah Van scored his
second. Debatable whether he grounded it, but the video refs always
give those finger tip efforts. He hit another sweet conversion off
the touchline but the hooter sounded before the game restarted and
Wigan had hung on to a 26-22 win.
I'll finish with this final point. It was a poor
display, but it's worth noting that we only received 2 penalties
all match. Great Bradford discipline, and yes we had a man
advantage for 40 minutes of the contest, but I'm not convinced many
sides could win games receiving that few amount of penalties. Same
against Saints last month. Just 1 penalty received and we still
won. Salford away, three penalties only, still won. Saints in
Cardiff, also just three penalties recieved, we didn't lose! So
that has to be pleasing that we are not having to rely on penalties
to help us win games. Ok it might not be pretty at times but this
is a far cry from previous years were we really needed penalties to
help us in many, many matches. It's another great facet of
improvement under Michael Maguire.