After some shocking mid season performances in 2005 we finished
the season strongly which gave us great up ahead of this 2006
season. That great hope was soon dashed and the end to 2005 proved
to be a false dawn.
This year we are again finishing the year
strongly but this is no false dawn. Our defence has gone in the
same season from one of the leagues worst to one of the best. It
was proved in this game as early doors we kept gifting the Bulls
soft penalties but instead of conceding, we now have to confidence
to defend our own line for repeated sets if need be.
On the back of strong defence we now have a confident attacking
line. This is due to a go forward that has been lacking in all
honesty since the partnership of Neil Cowie and Terry O'Connor was
broken up with Cowie's retirement.
What pleases me about the pack is the youthfulness we now have.
In recent years we've had 30+ old veteran forwards like O'Connor,
Craig Smith, Mick Cassidy, Jerry Seuseu, Harvey Howard, Quentin
Pongia etc in our line up. Not saying some of them were not value
to the team but we now have Feka Paleaaesina (25 next season),
Stuart Fielden (27), Danny Sculthorpe (if returning - 27), Gareth
Hock (23), Harrison Hansen (21) and Sean O'Loughlin (24). All
great ages. Throw in the experience of Bryan Fletcher and perhaps
a experienced prop and our pack looks formidable.
The battering go forward creates the space for our backs to
exploit the opposition defence. Earlier this year our back
struggled to make an impact as the absence of Hock, Fletcher and
Fielden left us struggling to make yards. We now have defences on
the back foot and Mick Higham in particular is benefiting from
We must have made more breaks in this match that in the first
19 matches of the season. That's all created by the forwards. Hard
work from them is what's required and our current form and a
winning team is the reward if they do it.
With Brian Noble and Stuart Fielden facing their old Bradford club
for the first time and Terry Newton facing his old Wigan club for
the first time, their was plenty of pre match hype about this one.
All match Stuart Fielden was receiving some heavy treatment from
his old Odsal colleagues but he was loving every minute of it.
Micky Higham was technically facing his old Bradford club as
well and it was he who's constant speed at dummy half created the
gaps for Wigan to blow the Bulls away first half.
On five minutes Higham broke away from dummy half and passed
inside to the supporting Bryan Fletcher.
Now if you've read the message board you'll have seen my thread
about me backing Fletcher to score first try at 50/1. I put £4 on
and with a £204 return on the cards my heart in mouth as Fletch
darted towards the line. I thought my luck was in but he passed
inside to Michael Dobson who was tackled a metre short and the
chance had gone.
Five minutes later Wigan took the lead. A great powerful run
from Feka Paleaaesina was what made this one, his offload sending
Higham on the breakaway. Support on the inside was superb as Mark
Calderwood and Danny Orr both had touches before Chris Ashton
finished off the move under the posts. Ashton just like Kris
Radlinski before him, in the right place at the right time.
Support play superb. It's been another major improvement of this
team and was superb all night. Dobson converted - 6-0 (11
Bradford then came back with so good territory created by our
ill-discipline. Fielden laid a big hit on Ben Harris but the Bulls
still made big metres and only strong defence from Sean O'Loughlin
stopped Newton coming back to haunt us.
We saw out a good spell from Bradford and make them pay with
our second try in the 16th minute. Higham broke away again and
pass inside to Ashton who darted down the left side of the field.
With Lesley Vianikolo in attendance he coolly passed inside to
allow Pat Richards to score rather than selfishly attempting to
score himself. Dobson missed the kick - 10-0 (17 minutes).
Another great team try gave us our third try from the restart.
This time Danny Orr broke through the Bulls defence as he took a
good long pass from Fletcher. Dobson was in support and finished
off under the sticks, converting his own to make it 16-0 (21
Bradford then had another spell of good territory but our
defence again held firm. Withers broke away but Wigan scrambled
This carried on up to half time and it looked likely Bradford
would score rather than Wigan. But 3 minutes before the break came
a crucial Wigan try. Defending on our own line Paul Deacon whipped
a ball out wide towards Marcus Bai which Richards intercepted. He
raced 98 metres down the left wing, easily burning off the chase
of the well past it Iestyn Harris. He rounded it off slightly to
kick Dobson and easier conversion which made it 22-0 at half time.
Back on July 7th we'd had a similar dominant first half
performance against Wakefield and given the opposition a bit of
hope by not keeping up our domination. This was a repeat of that
but that's no criticism because to keep any side to nil over 80
minutes is a big ask.
Wigan did score the first half of the second half though to
quickly end any hopes of a comeback. A knock on from Withers 30
metres out was picked up by Dobson who easily touched down.
Questionable whether Dobson was in an offside position but he got
the benefit of the doubt and converted to make it 28-0 (44
Bradford could have decided at 28-0 not to bother fighting
back. They are going to finish 4th whatever happens in the next
two weeks and basically have nothing to play for but to their
credit they didn't give up hope.
On 48 minutes they finally scored and my hopes of nilling them
had gone. Withers made amends for his knock on by touching down
and Deacon's conversion made it 28-6.
Wigan soon hit back with a try from Wayne Godwin. He started
over from close range and Dobson conversion increased our lead to
We then began to tire. We had put a massive effort in and it
was taking it's toll. We began to create errors with silly play on
the back of tire minds. I remember Scott Logan in particular being
guilty of silly errors. This allowed the Bulls to score on 59 and
65 minutes with tries from Andy Lynch and Karl Pryce. Deacon
converted the second try to make it 34-16 with 15 to go. An 18
point lead with that time left should still be enough but the
Wigan crowd was anxious, perhaps remembering the Bulls last ten
minute comeback from 12-27 down to win 28-27 at the JJB last
Hooker Ian Henderson almost continued the fightback but a try
saving tackle from Fielden denied him and the time began to tick
All we needed now was the cherry for the top of our cake. It
was the tackle into touch of big Lesley Vianikolo in the 77th
minute which created the field position for us to score last.
Great effort to tackle big Les over so late in the game. The much
criticised David Vaealiki was involved in that with Calderwood. I
mentioned hard work in the forwards creates rewards, the backs
also did their fair share.
Bradford got the ball back but a terrible kick from woeful
Harris went straight into the break basket of Dobson who raced
down the left for his hatrick try.
A great end to a great night. The only thing that could have
capped that night off was a try for Fielden, but it wasn't to be.