The night Bradford fell victim to game’s most amazing fightback

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It is perhaps unfair to highlight but the fact remains – one of the most dominant images of Steve McNamara’s four-year reign in charge of Bradford Bulls was this remarkable contest.

The England coach left far more at Odsal, not least a crop of promising youngsters, but there must still be times when he looks back on this demoralising night, winces and recognises it was a huge opportunity gone begging.

Everything was going to plan. Despite being without injured captain and playmaker Paul Deacon, his confident, almost mistake-free side had built up a seemingly unassailable 30-6 lead over Wigan Warriors.

Such was the command of their play-off display, people quickly thought they were witnessing the imminent Super League champions before their very eyes. But only 55 minutes had passed. And then Bulls crumbled.

Still now, three-and-a-half years after that incredulous evening at Grattan Stadium, it is hard to conceive how it all happened and why they ended up on the wrong side of the biggest comeback victory in Super League history.

During his debut season after switching from Wakefield, David Solomona, pictured scoring, had shown fleeting signs of his class but took the opportunity here to show just why Bradford forked out £100,000 scoring a first-half hat-trick to put his side 22-6 up.

It was the reason McNamara had bought the Kiwi second-row; he was made for nights like this and was almost unplayable.

When Iestyn Harris added another eight points after the break, Wigan looked beaten and Bulls fans were relishing the prospect of an eminently winnable home tie with Hull FC which would put them within 80 minutes of Old Trafford.

But then up stepped Trent Barrett. Bradford had kept the Australian Test star quiet for the majority but in those final 25 minutes he proved a class above.

Grabbing hold of the game, he began picking apart the Bulls.

Mark Calderwood broke clear for an individual try which barely caused a ripple among the home faithful but when Barrett sent the ex-Leeds winger scampering over for a second, concern mounted.

Calderwood then intercepted a needless pass from Shontayne Hape, Pat Richards converting to level before Richards slotted his first-ever drop goal with just four minutes left to put Wigan ahead.

Stunned Bradford still had a chance but failed to get into position for their own attempt.

That was when they missed Deacon’s composure but the most telling sight was Solomona and the equally pivotal Terry Newton and Andy Lynch all sat on the bench as the collapse escalated.

By the time McNamara returned his big guns to the fray, the momentum of the tie had swung irretrievably the wrong way and they were finished.