NEW LIFE was breathed into the battle at the bottom of First Utility Super League when Wakefield Trinity Wildcats went down 20-12 in yesterday’s four-pointer at Bradford Bulls.
Wildcats’ advantage over second-bottom Bradford is now down to three wins and that will be reduced even further – or even wiped out entirely – if Bulls win their appeal against the six point punishment for entering administration.
Bradford were the better side and deserved their victory, which completed a league double over Wakefield.
Bulls’ approach during the week was to build the game up as a must-win, while Wildcats coach Richard Agar – who dropped Paul Sykes and Harry Siejka – stressed it wasn’t do-or-die.
That was probably a fair summary for both teams, but it was reflected in their respective performances as Bulls came out firing and Wildcats failed to match their enthusiasm.
Trailing 18-0 at the break, Wildcats eventually found some passion in the second half, but by that stage it was too late and the visitors never looked like pulling the game from the fire.
Wakefield’s fate is still in their own hands, but they need a rapid improvement after another disjointed performance, marred by too many penalties and soft errors, as well as some alarmingly poor defence in the first half.
Wakefield had an early chance when Matty Wildie was held up over the Bradford line, but Bulls controlled things after that.
The visitors’ only other first half opportunities came at 12-0 down when Paul McShane’s pass close to the line bounced away off Richard Moore’s head and then – just before the break – when Jarrod Sammut chipped ahead, regathered and slung out a long pass, which Danny Kirmond dropped with the line open.
The outstanding Luke Gale provided the final passes for Bulls’ first two tries, Adrian Purtell crossing on 10 and Tom Olbison after 19.
Gale added the extras to both and nine minutes before the break he linked with Olbinson to carve out a second touchdown for Purtell, though that was unconverted.
Wildcats looked more interested at the start of the second period and they got themselves back in the game when Sammut, Pita Godinet and Richard Mathers handled across the line and Matt Ryan crossed, with Sammut converting.
Then Moore smashed Elliot Kear in a tackle. The winger got up and put his face in the Wakefield man’s and Moore reacted angrily, sparking a brawl which resulted in a yellow card for the ex-Bulls front-rower.
Gale increased Bulls’ lead with a penalty on 54 after a ball steal by Scott Anderson.
Mathers got over the line soon afterwards, but referee Richard Silverwood awarded a penalty to Bulls for a shove on a defender.
Gale missed with an attempted one-pointer before completing Bulls’ scoring via a penalty goal with five minutes left, making Ryan’s second try – and Sammut’s conversion – scant consolation.
Wildcats coach Agar was upset at his own side’s defensive decisions and one big call from referee Richard Silverwood following yesterday’s defeat.
“I thought the game hinged on two or three decisions,” Agar reflected. “A couple of them were ours and what we came up with on our left-hand side defensively, which was woeful.
“Also the decision to disallow Richie Mathers’ try – which would have made it a six-point ball game.
“There’s not one single reason at all why Richard Silverwood should have chalked that try off.
“We had a monitor in front of us and it was blatantly, a dead-set try.”
Bulls’ win reduced the gap between them and third-bottom Wakefield to just six points, but Agar remains confident his team will avoid relegation.
He said: “We still think we’ve got ample games.”
Bradford Bulls: Gaskell, Kear, Blythe, Purtell, George, Addy, Gale, Manuofakoa, Diskin, Kaufusi, Olbison, Pitts, Walker. Subs (all used): Sidlow, Ferguson, Donaldson, Fakir.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Mathers, Owen, Ryan, Walshaw, Riley, Sammut, Godinet, Anderson, Wildie, Scruton, Smith, Kirmond, Washbrook. Subs (all used): McShane, Moore, Gilmour, Molloy.
Referee: Richard Silverwood (Mirfield).