BRAVE Bradford’s winless run at home continues but they put up a terrific fight tonight against stuttering Warrington, the Super League leaders who were lucky to finish with 13 men, writes Dave Craven.
How Chris Bridge was not sent off for a blatant forearm into the face of Ben Jeffries as the Bulls half-back lay prone on the ground only referee Thierry Alibert will know.
The Warrington centre, who started out as a youngster at Odsal, escaped with only a penalty against him in the 54th minute but will surely face the RFL disciplinary next week.
The hosts – trailing just 16-6 at the time - could not capitalise from that possession, though, and that was the story of their night.
Bradford had conceded 122 points against Tony Smith’s men in just two meetings last year and, after big home losses versus Catalan and Wigan so far, more of the same was expected this evening.
But Mick Potter’s side, with ex-Parramatta Eels prop Manase Manuokafoa debuting and young second-row John Bateman enjoying another fine display, produced far more urgency, passion and steel this time around to really test the unbeaten leaders.
Indeed they were unfortunate to be 10-6 behind at the break and, in the end, Warrington needed Lee Briers to slot a late drop goal to steady their nerves.
However, for all their pressure, Bradford simply did not have the requisite creativity and guile to break down a renowned defence as often as they needed.
Matt Diskin had given them a great start inside five minutes, burrowing over from acting half with erring Warrington still yet to touch the ball.
Jarrod Sammut converted and with the Wolves struggling for their usual fluency - and then seeing talisman Briers trudge off injured - there was genuine hope of a surprise result.
Warrington struck in the 19th minute after Chris Riley got in at the corner but that should have been ruled out for a blatantly forward pass from Brett Hodgson.
The hosts then had two ‘tries’ disallowed in as many minutes by video referee Ben Thaler.
Sammut’s effort was rightly chalked off after he was deemed in an offside position when picking up Stefan Ratchford’s charged down kick.
However, there was far less certainty surrounding Michael Platt’s attempt, Thaler ruling the centre had just slid a foot into touch after collecting Elliot Kear’s brilliant palm down from Ben Jeffries’ kick.
The hosts, missing prop Nick Scruton after his partner gave birth to their first child, enjoyed plenty more pressure but, despite Jeffries’ best efforts, just lacked a killer touch and some ingenuity.
Their opponents weathered the storm and responded with 90 seconds remaining as Mickey Higham slid over, Chris Bridge converting after Hodgson had also departing injured.
However, Briers returned for the second period and Warrington extended their lead within two minutes of the restart, Ryan Atkins racing 90m for his 100th career try after Sammut’s kick was charged down.
Bridge made it 16-6 but should have been dismissed before adding the conversion to Trent Waterhouse’s try on the hour mark.
Bradford’s efforts were eventually rewarded with a Jason Crookes try before Briers brought some calm with that one-pointer,
Bradford: Kearney; Kear, Platt, Lulia, Crookes; Sammut, Jeffries; Kopczak, Diskin, Hargreaves, Whitehead, Bateman, Langley. Replacements: L’Estrange, Burgess, Joseph, Manuokafoa.
Warrington: Hodgson; Riley, Bridge, Atkins, J Monaghan; Briers, Myler; Morley, Higham, Wood, Waterhouse, Blythe, Cooper. Replacements: Ratchford, Carvell, Hill, McCarthy.
Referee: Thierry Alibert (Toulouse)