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GUARDIAN VERDICT: Bradford Bulls 10 Warrington Wolves 23
WITH all the talk of League Leaders’ Shields and Wolves’ record point scoring over the last year, it can be easy to forget that Tony Smith’s side also had the best defensive record in Super League last season.
They look likely to push for that title again this year, following a defensive performance made all the more impressive when you consider the injury problems suffered by Smith's side both before and during the win against a Bradford side desperate for their first home win of the year.
The loss of England international Ben Westwood the day before the match, plus injuries to Lee Briers and Brett Hodgson during the action, were added to the absences of pack men Michael Monaghan, Simon Grix, Ben Harrison and David Solomona.
They are players that would have an impact on any team but Smith’s charges stood tall, with Micky Higham – returning from injury – and Richie Myler leading the way.
For the purist, Wolves’ 23-10 win should have been much more entertaining than any of the 60-point demolition jobs we saw on numerous occasions last season.
The tenacity, determination and commitment on show as Bulls pounded Wolves’ line was a joy to behold and was a source of great pride for Smith and his players afterwards.
And that is because it is these games, the hard-fought wins over Hull KR the previous week and then Bradford, which will stand them in good stead for the end of the season, when their character, mettle and commitment will be tested to the fullest.
When those moments come, when Wolves are protecting a narrow lead with minutes remaining in a play-off semi-final, it is the experience learned from these games that will hopefully help them go one or two steps further than they ever have before.
Ryan scored his 100th career try against Bradford Bulls on Sunday. He has scored 49 for Wakefield, 46 for Warrington and five for England. Atkins has got a prolific record against Bulls, scoring 11 tries in his last six appearances against his first professional club.
Tony Smith’s side have now racked up 15 Super League matches without defeat. Their last league defeat was 18-16 at home to Salford City Reds on June 12, 2011.
The weekend’s trip to Bradford Bulls marked Tony Smith’s 100th game in charge of Warrington Wolves.
Wolves have not lost on the road at Odsal since the 23-10 defeat on March 16, 2008.
Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield has scored points in 14 consecutive games against Warrington, a streak which started on September 1, 2006 when Rhinos defeated Wolves 54-16 at Headingley.
Joel Monaghan scored a try in all three of the Wolves meetings with Leeds in 2011.
Round 5: March 3, 2012 Bradford Bulls...10 Warrington Wolves...23
Brett Kearney; Jason Crookes, Keith Lulia, Michael Platt, Elliot Kear; Jarrod Sammut, Ben Jeffries; Craig Kopczak, Matt Diskin, Bryn Hargreaves, Elliot Whitehead, John Bateman, Jamie Langley. Subs: Heath L’Estrange, Tom Burgess, Phil Joseph, Manese Manuokafoa.
Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers, Richie Myler; Adrian Morley, Micky Higham, Paul Wood, Trent Waterhouse, Matty Blythe, Mike Cooper. Subs: Stefan Ratchford, Garreth Carvell, Chris Hill, Tyrone McCarthy.
Diskin try, 5mins, Sammut goal, 6-0; Riley try, 19mins, 6-4; Higham try, 39mins, Bridge goal, 6-10; Atkins try, 43mins, Bridge goal, 6-16; Waterhouse try, 61mins, Bridge goal, 6-22; Crookes try, 67mins, 10-22; Briers drop goal, 72mins, 10-23.
Bulls 11 Wolves 7