Wigan Warriors 60 Bradford Bulls 12: Lingering hopes are ended by mesmeric Tomkins

IF Leeds Rhinos tuned in to see if they could pick up any late tips on how to stop Sam Tomkins before next week’s Carnegie Challenge Cup final, they will have been sorely disappointed.

Just like the rest of Engage Super League before them, dismantled Bradford Bulls simply had no answers last night as the electrifying Wigan Warriors full-back produced yet another stunning performance to tear them apart.

Perhaps the only way of potentially silencing the mesmeric England star - who scored two tries and was involved in six others - is through injury, a tactic Bradford centre Paul Sykes tried with a shuddering high tackle in the 52nd minute which could have warranted more than the resultant penalty.

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It was to no avail; Tomkins, as durable as he is skilled, simply got up, dusted himself down and quickly produced another try-scoring pass for his captain Sean O’Loughlin. Wembley awaits.

Fellow finalists Leeds can take some comfort given the usually prolific Pat Richards only mustered six goals from 12 attempts but it is small comfort – he did score a hat-trick of tries – ahead of what will be a fascinating encounter.

For Bradford, who trailed just 18-12 at half-time, days of challenging for silverware must seem so distant this morning as they contemplate a third successive season without play-off football.

Paul Deacon, who won the Challenge Cup with the Bulls in 2000 and 2003, played the straight-man to Tomkins’s flair and helped the leaders inflict a 12-try destruction. Bradford had been abject in falling apart against Hull KR in the second half on Sunday and they surrendered again in the second period here.

They have won just once in their last six games. The season’s end cannot come quickly enough.

Tomkins showed his threat within the opening 90 seconds although the chance was created by Thomas Leuluai, whose electric pace burnt Bradford though the middle before O’Loughlin supported. He found Tomkins but a brilliant cover tackle from Gareth Raynor denied the England man.

It proved only temporary. The livewire full-back weaved and then darted on a kick return, slicing between Danny Addy and Ben Jeffries to sprint 40m clear again. Brett Kearney and Sykes hauled him in – just – but it only delayed the inevitable as George Carmont burrowed over from acting-half.

When Kearney then failed to deal with Tomkins’ towering kick, a brilliant cut-out pass from O’Loughlin ushered Ryan Hoffman over. Richards improved and it seemed Tomkins could do no wrong; even when his fired pass out wide was intercepted by Patrick Ah Van on halfway, the Bradford winger – who endured another error-strewn evening – could only spill.

Carmont registered soon after when Ah Van collected Tomkins’ kick only to embarrassingly, and meekly, lose the ball trying to get out from behind his own line.

It did not signal a collapse though. With their first attack in the 23rd minute, courtesy of an uncharacteristic handling error from Jeff Lima, Bradford responded.

Kearney’s effort to reach and palm back Marc Herbert’s lofted kick proved worthwhile as Craig Kopczak picked up the loose ball to dive over between the posts, Ah Van converting.

Richards scored Wigan’s third on 29 minutes after Tomkins had chimed in to the line again to create the space for Carmont to feed the Man of Steel although Jamie Langley was unlucky to be initially penalised for interference on Eamon O’Carroll.

However, Richards missed his third successive conversion attempt, badly firing wide, so, when Bradford scored their second try five minutes before the break, Ah Van improving, it meant they only trailed 18-12.

This time it was Sykes who got up to knock back Ben Jeffries’ crossfield kick, allowing 18-year-old John Bateman to score his first Super League try on only his third appearance.

The pocket of Bradford fans who made the trip showed that, despite the decline they have witnessed in recent years, they still hold a sense of humour chanting “easy, easy”.

However, typically, Tom Burgess dropped the re-start and they were soon silenced as Wigan left them pointless in a relentless second period.

Royston, Addy and Kearney were all left grounded when as Tomkins weaved through off a set-move and Wigan’s passing was too crisp again when Josh Charnley rounded off another slick movement.Then came O’Loughlin’s second after Sykes’ high shot left Wigan’s fuming – and momentarily worried – before Richards leapt high to collect Deacon’s pinpoint kick, Sykes badly out-of-position.

Tomkins raced 95 metres, Harrison Hansen barrelled over and Charnley sprinted away for his second before Richards completed the rout and his treble at the death.

Bradford scrum-half Marc Herbert suffered a broken hand.

Wigan: S Tomkins; Charnley, J Tomkins, Carmont, Richards; O’Loughlin, Deacon; Lima, Leuluai, Hock, Hansen, Hoffman, Farrell. Substitutes: Goulding, McIlorum, Prescott, O’Carroll.

Bradford: Kearney; Ah Van, Sykes, Royston, Raynor; Jeffries, Herbert; Lynch, Addy, Hargreaves, Elima, Sibbit, Langley. Substitutes: Bateman,Kopczak, O’Brien, Burgess.

Referee: B Thaler (Wakefield).