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GUARDIAN VERDICT: Warrington Wolves 32 Bradford Bulls 16
WHILE plaudits must be given to Wolves for their rather routine progression into the final eight of the Challenge Cup, perhaps Bradford should have served up better than they did.
A slice of misfortune when Adrian Purtell’s ‘opening try’ was chalked off and some horrific lapses in concentration from a couple of players meant that the visitors never really provided the challenge they could have done.
Bryn Hargreaves was a particular offender, allowing Brett Hodgson to breeze over without any interference shortly before the break, before catastrophically dropping the ball with seconds remaining in the half for Chris Riley to compound Bradford coach Mick Potter’s half-time misery.
Those mistakes alone account for a massive 18-point swing and on another day Wolves could easily have been under intense pressure in the second half.
Still, you can only play what is in front of you and Wolves were more than capable of putting an occasionally lacklustre Bulls side to the sword thanks to the creativity of Hodgson and Lee Briers on the back of Wolves’ excellent pack.
Much had been made of Bulls’ physical threat in the build-up to the match, something that Wolves boss Tony Smith acknowledged when dropping Brad Dwyer and selecting a weighty bench of Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper, Simon Grix and Ben Harrison.
Cumbrian Harrison provided a huge lift off the bench and helped to inspire a Wolves pack that had started to tire shortly before he and Carvell were introduced.
Indeed, for all that had been made of Bulls’ forwards, Wolves out-gunned them, with Chris Hill proving once again that he can create more metres with three men on his back than some can without.
Wolves’ defence took another step forward, with signs that they are returning to the 2011 level of rarely looking like being beaten on their own line.
Twice holding up a frantic Bulls attack in the space of a minute on the hour mark showed further signs that the confidence is returning to Smith’s men, and they will need that when they travel to Catalan Dragons in two weeks’ time.
Last week’s attendance of 5,505 was the lowest for a Wolves game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium since the 2006 Challenge Cup fourth round match against London Skolars, which attracted a crowd of 3,012.
It was Joel Monaghan’s second three-try haul for Warrington Wolves.
Micky Higham reached a career milestone of 350 appearances, he needs just three more tries to reach his century of career touchdowns.
Chris Riley stretched his try scoring run in consecutive games to five with his try against Bulls.
Lee Briers needs just three tries to reach a milestone of 150 tries for Warrington Wolves.
Carnegie Challenge Cup fifth round April 28, 2012 Warrington Wolves...32 Bradford Bulls...16
Brett Hodgson; Chris Riley, Chris Bridge, Ryan Atkins, Joel Monaghan; Lee Briers, Gareth O’Brien; Chris Hill, Micky Higham, Paul Wood, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Tyrone McCarthy. Subs: Ben Harrison, Simon Grix, Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper
Karl Pryce; Adrian Purtell, Elliot Whitehead, Keith Lulia, Shaun Ainscough; Ben Jeffries, Luke Gale; Bryn Hargreaves, Matt Diskin, Craig Kopczak, Olivier Elima, John Bateman, Jamie Langley. Subs: Heath L’Estrange, Danny Addy, Manase Manuokafoa, Tom Burgess.
Purtell try, 12mins, Gale goal, 0-6; Monaghan try, 22mins, 4-6; Hodgson try, 37mins, Hodgson goal, 10-6; Riley try, 40mins, Hodgson goal, 16-6; Monaghan try, 44mins, 20-6; Atkins try, 48mins, Hodgson goal, 26-6; Lulia try, 54mins, 26-10; Elima try, 76mins, Gale goal, 26-16; Monaghan try, 79mins, Hodgson goal, 32-16.
Wolves 8 Bulls 11