Saturday 3rd March 2012, 17:45
Super League - Round: 5
Matt Diskin, Jason Crookes,
Chris Riley, Mickey Higham, Ryan Atkins, Trent Waterhouse,
Chris Bridge 3,
Attendance: 11,318 Official: T Alibert Venue: Odsal Stadium
Full Time Report
England centre Ryan Atkins scored the 100th try of his career to help table-topping Warrington Wolves scrape an unconvincing victory over a plucky Bradford Bulls in the wet at Odsal.
Atkins, who began his professional career with the Bulls but never played a first-team game for them, continued his prolific record by touching down for the 11th time in six appearances against them for the Wolves.
His 80-metre solo effort finally settled a close-fought game and enabled Warrington to maintain their unbeaten record and pull three points clear at the top of Stobart Super League.
The result leaves Bradford clinging on to eighth spot after losing all three home games so far, both their victories coming on their travels, but there were genuine grounds for renewed play-off hopes.
The Bulls conceded 122 points in their two Super League meetings with Warrington in 2011 but outplayed them for long periods tonight and had two first-half tries disallowed.
Warrington were without hugely influential hooker Michael Monaghan and England second rower Ben Westwood, who picked up an injury in training, and lost veteran stand-off Lee Briers with an arm injury just 13 minutes into the game.
The game started badly for the Wolves, with Briers failing to find touch with a relieving penalty, and they conceded a fifth-minute try to Bradford hooker Matt Diskin, who forced his way over from acting half-back on the last tackle.
Jarrod Sammut added the conversion to give the Yorkshiremen a 6-0 lead.
Briers almost made amends when he jinked his way to the Bulls line but he was unable to ground the ball and, clearly hurt in his tryscoring effort, was forced off the field shortly afterwards.
Stefan Ratchford was a natural replacement and Mickey Higham made the most of his first start for 12 months with a lively contribution, particularly in the first half.
Warrington scored their first try through winger Chris Riley, who took advantage of a cut-out pass by full-back Brett Hodgson to cross at the corner on 18 minutes, but the Bulls were the better side for most of the first half and had two tries disallowed by video referee Ben Thaler.
Sammut had a charge-down effort ruled out for offside while slow-motion replays indicated centre Michael Platt had a foot in touch when he planted the ball over the line after Elliott Kear had cleverly palmed back Ben Jeffries’ kick to the corner.
Instead of being comfortably in front by the break, the home side found themselves trailing after the Wolves scored on a rare foray into the Bulls 20-metre area.
Ratchford was brought down short after a jinking run but Higham made the most of the position to dummy his way over from acting half-back and Chris Bridge’s goal made it 10-6.
Warrington had Briers back for the start of the season half but only at the expense of Hodgson, who succumbed to a knock he took before the break, so Ratchford went to full-back.
Bradford, giving a debut to Tongan prop Manase Manuokafoa in the absence of Nick Scruton who withdrew for personal reasons following the birth of his first child, continued to make a mockery of their previous form with some neat build-up play but they could not match their opponents’ superior finishing.
A promising move broke down when Sammut’s kick was charged down and Atkins picked up the loose ball to race 80 metres for a breakaway try, with Bridge kicking his second conversion to open up a 10-point lead.
Bridge, another former Bradford player, then angered the home crowd by apparently using his elbow on a prone Jeffries but referee Thiery Alibert took no action other than to award a penalty.
The Wolves made sure of their fourth win when second rower Trent Waterhouse stretched out to plant the ball on the line for his side’s fourth try and Briers put over a drop goal, although Bradford grabbed a deserved consolation score when winger Jason Crookes scored at the corner.