WARRINGTON Wolves fell victim to a second half comeback as they suffered defeat at Bradford Bulls in Super League Round 11.
Luke George, named in the centres on the team sheet, was replaced before kick off by Jamie Foster and he went on to score the Bulls’ first try of the game and prove dangerous with the boot.
That came in reply to Anthony England’s opener after five minutes before the sides traded first half tries through Brett Kearney, Kevin Penny, Tom Olbison, Chris Bridge and Joel Monaghan as Wolves entered the break six points up.
Adrian Purtell scored twice after the break with Elliot Kear adding another to cancel out Matty Russell’s third try in primrose and blue and give Bulls the win.
Luke Gale’s high up and under was well taken by Penny, who held onto the ball despite a big hit from Adam Henry in an early arm wrestle.
Gareth O’Brien kicked for touch when Wolves were awarded a penalty and from a well-worked set saw the ball find its way off an attempted Bulls interception to England.
Despite the interference the prop was able to gather and crossed for his first try for Wolves six minutes into his second start this season. Bridge converted.
But five minutes later Bulls pulled a try back to the delight of the majority inside the bowl. Kearney picked up at dummy half and Lee Gaskell was able to spin a looping pass out of Penny’s reach and into the arms of Foster.
The man who only made his way into the team minutes before kick off was able to scoot to the left hand corner from close range and narrow the deficit. Foster was unable to add the extras to his own score from wide out.
It would be Bulls who would increase their lead on 15 minutes when Bridge, the star of last weekend’s Challenge Cup win, attempted a blind offload and none of his teammates were able to gather.
Purtell was the man to collect and with Penny and full back Russell for company he fed Kearney.
Kearney hit a gap and darted from 10 metres inside his own half, managing to shake off the attentions of Wolves’ recovering winger and full back, to find the corner. Foster converted from a difficult angle.
Bridge would make amends two minutes later when the hosts failed to find safety from a drop out in their in-goal area.
Starting again in the half backs he added his fifth try in two games when hitting the line at speed and breaking the Bulls’ defence to dive over in the sloping corner of Odsal.
Bridge added the extras himself, almost appearing to chip the ball over from the touchline.
Within five minutes Wolves had increased their lead further. A superb break from Ryan Atkins took him into the Bulls’ half and he was able to offload to Joel Monaghan in the tackle.
The Australian ate up a further 10 metres before handing over to the pacey Penny for the winger to go the distance and score his fourth try since his return. Bridge added to his ever-growing points’ haul from the kick.
With 11 minutes of a free-scoring half remaining it was Bulls who drew next blood. A period of sustained pressure for the hosts had Wolves pinned on their own try line and when Francis Cummins’ side regained possession replacement Olbison was able to crash over the line from close range.
Foster reduced the deficit to two points with the conversion.
Rhys Evans side-stepped his way past two would-be tacklers to take Wolves into opposition territory with Ben Harrison, back in the side after a wrist injury, continuing to drive the visitors deeper into the Bradford half.
As Wolves moved the ball to the right hand side through the hands of Atkins and O’Brien it eventually found Joel Monaghan and he eased through the tackle to cross in the corner. Bridge’s attempted conversion was unsuccessful for the first time in the match.
Bulls were penalised for holding onto Chris Hill in a tackle early in the second half and after O’Brien kicked for touch Wolves went close to starting the second period the way they ended the first, but first Bridge and then Monaghan were stopped short.
However, it was the hosts who struck first nine minutes after the interval when Lee Gaskell had enough space 10 metres from the Wolves line to deliver a clever grubber which bounced kindly for Purtell to ground for his sixth try of the season. Foster levelled proceedings with the extras.
Bridge looked determined to carry Wolves over the line all by himself with 25 minutes remaining, he was halted only a metre from the line to put Tony Smith’s side in a promising position to regain their lead.
After Trent Waterhouse and Rhys Evans had taken tackles, Atkins ventured sideways across the pitch looking for a gap but unable to find a way through Bulls’ tighter defence since the break.
It took the quick-feet of Russell to do the damage four minutes later when he took a pass from Micky Higham 30 metres from the try line.
The 20-year-old waltzed his way towards the whitewash and after several changes of direction had the strength to force his way over, despite Bulls’ last-ditch defence.
On 68 minutes Michael Monaghan almost recreated Russell’s run as, carrying the ball from deeper than his teammate, the hooker glided past two defenders before attempting to use England as a dummy runner only to lose control of the ball.
Danny Addy collected for Bulls and when he fed Adam Henry it looked as if Wolves were outnumbered. Roy Asotasi recovered to tackle the winger and held him down to buy the visitors time.
From the resulting penalty Bulls were able to put the ball deep in Wolves’ territory and having recovered possession found Gaskell wide on the right.
The full back somehow managed to deliver a pass while being hauled to the ground for Kear to claim and dive over in the far corner.
Foster missed the kick but moments later the Bulls were ahead, Addy again breaking into space and committing Russell before sending a neat pass to Purtell who sped home for his second and a simple conversion for Foster.
Bridge thought he had found a gap with five minutes to go, but it was a gap created from an obstruction by Waterhouse and Wolves were pulled back for the penalty.
Then, when Joel Monaghan was unable to escape his in-goal area and the resulting drop out failed to make 10 metres Foster added to his haul with a penalty in front of the sticks.