The end result may well be what most people had predicted but the
performance of the severely depleted Wigan team surprised even the most
optimistic Warriors fan.
The injury ravaged side defended above their weight and experience before
eventually succumbing to the Bulls in the second half.
The defeat, Wigan's first in a Challenge Cup semi-final for 35 years, sets
up a mouth-watering all Yorkshire final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium a
week on Saturday.
The Warriors fought back from 12-2 behind to take a 16-12 lead by half-time.
But the youngsters just couldn't keep it up in the second forty when the
Bulls stepped up the pace and ran in four tries.
Danny Tickle opened the scoring with a penalty after 13 minutes but the
Wigan lead was short-lived. James Lowes eventually found his way over the
whitewash after some commendable line defence from Wigan. On the fifth
tackle the former GB star touched down his own short kick and Deacon
Wigan didn't help themselves by kicking the ball out on the full at the
In the subsequent attack man-mountain Paul Anderson thought he had scored
but the video referee ruled he was just short. On the fifth tackle Lowes
kicked out to the left wing and after a scramble Lee Radford got hand to
ball just before the dead ball line. Again Deacon was accurate with the
A Tickle penalty gave Wigan another two points and a stunning try from Terry
Newton brought the Warriors right back into contention. The hooker was on
the end of a superb handling move which involved O'Loughlin, Aspinwall, Lam
He then turned creator when his short kick into the in-goal from dummy half
was read perfectly by Danny Sculthorpe. Tickle successfully converted both.
A dubious try within four minutes of the re-start brought Bradford level.
The video referee (Ray Tennant) was again called for and concluded that
centre Shontayne Hape grounded the ball before his foot went into touch.
Deacon's magnificent touchline conversion nudged the Bulls back in front and
they never looked back.
Radford scored his second try on 53 minutes and tries soon followed from
Paul Deacon and Tevita Vaikona before Brian Carney got one back for Wigan.
Wigan went into the game without Farrell, Cassidy, Ainscough Wild and Dallas
and five of the starters, including Tickle, had pain killing injections
before the match.
But alarmingly the terrible injury situation looks set to get worse before
it gets better.
Kris Radlinski was rushed to hospital in an ambulance after injuring his
neck going for a loose ball in the second half. David Hodgson dislocated his
shoulder and Craig Smith is thought to have broken a finger.
Coach Stuart Raper was justifiably proud of the display. He said: "We played
some good footie just before half-time to put us in front but a couple of
calls went against us and we didn't react quick enough.
"The guys hung in there but we were just not good enough on the day."
His thoughts quickly turned to the Good Friday clash against the old enemy
and other beaten semi-finalists, St Helens. Both teams will be desperate to
get back to winning ways after three straight losses. Raper said: "We're
battered but we've got to lift for Friday. It's tough but we'll battle on."
Wigan Warriors 22
Bradford Bulls 36
Terry Newton (37)
Danny Sculthorpe (39)
Brian Carney (74)
James Lowes (18)
Lee Radford 2 (29, 53)
Shontayne Hape (43)
Paul Deacon (56)
Tevita Viakona (64)
Danny Tickle 5
Paul Deacon 6
Wigan 16 Bradford 12
Steve Ganson (St Helens)
2003 Challenge Cup Semi Finals
Saturday 12th April 2003 Leeds 33 St Helens 26 (After Extra
Time - at Wigan - Live on BBC ONE)
Sunday 13th April
2003 Wigan 22 Bradford 36 (at Huddersfield - Live on BBC TWO)
2003 Challenge Cup Final
Saturday 26th April 2003 Bradford 22 Leeds 20 (at Millennium
Stadium, Cardiff - Live on BBC ONE)
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