Bradford Bulls 12 Warrington 26: Paul can only watch as Bulls easy prey for Wolves

HOW Bradford Bulls could have done with some of the old Robbie Paul panache yesterday.

Bereft of three chief playmakers and therefore unable to leave any sort of imprint on a typically professional Warrington side, Francis Cummins’ team was crying out for the sort of craft and guile their legendary former player used to regularly provide.

As it was, frustrated fans had to settle for the lesser but still welcome the sight of the iconic Paul addressing them at half-time following his long-awaited return as the club’s new deputy director.

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Bradford have not won a Super League title since the charismatic Kiwi’s last game in their colours in the 2005 Grand Final.

It is a sign of the magnitude of the job in hand reviving things at Odsal that, after an eighth defeat in nine games, it looks certain they will miss out on the play-offs for a fifth successive year.

After all the problems of last season’s administration, maybe Bradford did overachieve earlier in the season when losing just three of their opening 11 games to raise hopes of a return to those halcyon days seen under Paul.

Despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise, they were well beaten yesterday as double-chasing Warrington, showing no signs of fatigue after last Monday’s epic defeat of leaders Wigan, effortlessly moved through the gears.

Bradford’s hopes of success were hindered massively from the off by that glut of withdrawals to their main creative talents; already without prolific stand-off Jarrod Sammut, they saw their inventive full-back Brett Kearney pull out with a shoulder injury while England Knights scrum-half Luke Gale was missing after his mother passed away in the hours before kick-off following a battle with cancer. Cummins – whose side admittedly showed great character after trailing 20-0 at half-time – said: “I want to pay tribute to the way Luke has handled it for the past few months.

“It’s been a real difficult time for him and he’s tried to keep everything as normal.

“After losing his mum, our thoughts are with him and his family.

“With the personnel we didn’t have it was always going to be difficult today.

“Warrington made a great start but we showed some grit and kept going.”

Hooker Heath L’Estrange was forced into acting as a makeshift number seven with Jamie Foster returning at full-back while, with second-row Tom Olbison also sidelined, 18-year-old Alex Mellor debuted off the bench.

It was a sign of the difference in squad strength – Cummins’ major problem – that Warrington coach Tony Smith could replace his England scrum-half Richard Myler with another England international, the supremely talented Stefan Ratchford who ran the show yesterday.

It was possibly surprising that Warrington had to wait until as long as the 21st minute to open the scoring.

Dozing Bradford had been opened up all too easily out wide inside the first minute when Elliot Kear was forced to chase back and concede a drop-out.

Lee Briers breezed through equally as simply when he dropped a shoulder in the resultant set. He was held up by Matt Diskin before the veteran stand-off’s grubber pressured for another drop-out but the hosts managed to waken out of their slumber and hold them out again.

However, they did not have an attacking chance of note themselves until 18 minutes in, which Foster wasted with a cheap knock-on.

Soon after, 36-year-old Adrian Morley, who played alongside Paul in that Grand Final win over Leeds, came off the bench to drive Warrington forward with all his usual passion and Ratchford’s long flat pass saw Ben Currie hitting a gap and doing well to reach the corner from 40m out.

Brett Hodgson missed the conversion but was on target after his side struck again in the very next set, Briers starting and finishing a move which had splintered Bradford’s left flank on halfway.

There was no excuse for the abysmal line defence, however, when Exiles hooker Michael Monaghan shrugged off Manase Manuokafoa and a clutch of other defenders to wriggle over in the 31st minute, Warrington repeating the trick of scoring in consecutive sets when Trent Waterhouse then hit Ratchford’s basic pass to stroll through more feeble attempts.

Hodgson improved the former and did so again ten minutes after the restart when Ryan Atkins picked off L’Estrange’s pass to run in from 50m.

But to their credit Bradford – whose next home game against Hull FC has been brought forward to Friday, July 19 for television purposes – did keep plugging away.

Jon Bateman almost stretched over only to see Rhys Williams hold up the England Academy captain but his side did avoid the ignominy of not scoring when Diskin’s clever pass saw Chev Walker charge over straight after in the 65th minute.

Foster converted and they were further rewarded for their desire with a try from James Donaldson in the final play after a surging Bateman run which Foster improved again.

Bradford: Foster; Kear, Purtell, Lulia, Platt; Addy, L’Estrange; Scruton, Diskin, Sidlow, Bateman, Blythe, Donaldson. Substitutes: Manuokafoa, Walker, Evans, Mellor.

Warrington: Hodgson; Williams, Grix, Atkins, Riley; Briers, Ratchford; Carvell, M Monaghan, Wood, Waterhouse, Westwood, Currie. Substitutes: Bridge, Morley, Cooper, McCarthy.

Referee: R Silverwood (RFL).