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Warriors halt Bulls' charge
12-man Bulls narrowly miss out in Challenge Cup thriller
Wigan survived a determined Bradford fightback to win Sunday's Challenge Cup tie, despite the Bulls spending much of the match with just 12 men.
Wigan ran in five tries and Bradford replied with four to win 22-26 at the end of a riveting game of that, sadly, is likely to be best remembered for the ugly incident that led to the sending off.
Bradford's numbers were reduced when Gareth Raynor was shown the red card for knocking Sam Tomkins unconscious with a punch to the head, just as the stand-off scored his side's second try.
After taking the lead 10 minutes in through Ryan Whitehead, the Bulls then slipped to a 22-6 deficit when they went a man down on the half-hour mark at Odsal Stadium.
But the home side dug deep and hauled themselves back to within four points and, had Liam Farrell not re-established a buffer with six minutes to go, they may well have nicked it.
The Bulls nearly went behind in the first minute, but for a great piece of defensive work from Michael Platt to deny Pat Richards when he forced the utility back to drop the ball as he went in for the try.
It was Whitehead who went in for the first try on 10 minutes when the ball was whipped out to him after Bradford got underneath a brilliant high kick from Kyle Briggs.
Patrick Ah Van booted the conversion to make it 6-0 as the Bulls kept up the pressure on Wigan and controlled the early stages.
Wigan pulled four back minutes later when the visitors spread the ball out to the left on their last tackle as they pushed the Bulls close to their line.
Quick hands from Darrell Goulding put Richards over in the corner but he was unable to convert his own try, his kick blown off course in the blustery conditions.
Tomkins went in for Wigan's second on 30 minutes with a brilliant jinking run through a scrambling Bradford defence.
But the try was marred by what could have been a serious injury to Tomkins after the Bulls winger knocked out the youngster as he went over the line in an incident that would see neither play any further part in the match.
Tomkins was out cold before he hit the floor and needed treatment after Raynor came in from the side with outstretched arm and clubbed the Super League's Young Player of The Year in the side of the face.
Raynor was duly dispatched for an early shower and Richards hit the target with his second conversion attempt to take the score to 10-6.
Six minutes later though Wigan were also reduced to 12 men, albeit temporarily, after Jeff Lima was sin-binned after repeated warnings from the referee.
It took just three minutes of the second half for Wigan to claim their third when Finch intercepted a grubber kick and sprinted the length of the pitch for a superb 75 metre solo try. Richards struck the conversion to take the visitors to a 16-6 lead.
The Warriors' fourth came almost instantly from the restart, when Goulding broke up the left touchline before delivering a superb one-handed offload to Richards, who ran in under the posts for his second.
He added the extras with his third successful conversion to stretch his side's lead to 22-6 but
Bradford took just three minutes to reply as they shifted the ball right to find Jeffries, who hit the pass at pace and burst through the Wigan defence.
Jeffries was hauled down short but popped the ball up to Ah Van as he fell and the big Kiwi winger collected and dabbed the ball down in the corner.
Ah Van converted with a superb touchline kick to take the scores to 12-22 and reduce the Bull's deficit back to 10 points.
Despite their numerical disadvantage it was the Bulls again who were next on the score sheet with a well worked 64th minute try by Shad Royston after a great break upfield by Platt.
Briggs demonstrated great composure with the recycled ball as he dummied the pass, but instead dinked a neat grubber through the Wigan line from less than 10 yards out.
Royston shot through in support and won the race to the ball, touching down under the posts and Ah Van hit the conversion to make it 18-22 and put the 12-man Bulls right back in the game.
But with just six minutes to go Brett Finch and Liam Farrell combined to break Bradford hearts with a well-worked try after good pressure had earned the visitors six more tackles deep inside Bulls territory.
Finch delivered a delightful short pass to Farrell who charged in from short range and stretched out to touch down his 12th Wigan try.
But Bradford had not read the script and although it was too late to make a difference to the result Ah Van crashed over for his second in the dying moments to close the match out.