1998 Warrington v Bradford

Published in Thirteen in 2005

Super League III
7 June 1998
Warrington Wolves 28
Bradford Bulls 10

Champions Bradford Bulls came to Wilderspool after eight games of the 1998 season already six points ahead of the Wolves. There had been some warning signs that they wouldn’t have things all their own way that year, as they had had in the 1997 Super League campaign, most notably being thrashed at home to Leeds on Easter Sunday and suggestions that signing Shaun Edwards wasn’t gelling with his team mates o or off the field.

Still, it seemed that a game against Warrington would provide them with two points especially as the Wire had, a week earlier, lost embarrassingly to the previously winless Huddersfield by 22 points. Warrington had also lost their first four Super League games.

The Wolves were in something of a rut, stuck in between the mid 1990s, when the young talent of Iestyn Harris and Paul Sculthorpe generated talk of silverware, largely from Sky’s Mike Stephenson who predicted a league championship in the 1995/96 Centenary Season, and the days of Allan Langer and Tawera Nikau; two glorious signings that were still eighteen months away. Whilst they didn’t challenged for a play off position in the thirs Super League season, they had a squad which was good enough to keep them from the foot of the table and provide difficult tests for visiting teams at Wilderspool.

There was no better example of this that than the game against the Bulls although a Tevita Vaikona try after a minute seemed to suggest otherwise. Bradford were without James Lowes but the Wire had playmaking problems of their own with the inexperienced John Duffy at scrum half, instead of the injured Lee Briers. It was perhaps inevitable that Bradford would target Duffy and, indeed, Graeme Bradley did just that; being sent off for an incident 15 minutes from half time. The Bulls were winning at this point but not for much longer.

Six minutes later they had scored two tries. Steve McCurrie broke through some weak goal line defending for the first and, to mark his 400th appearance for the club, Mark Forster scored in the corner from a Danny Farrar offload. Forster had led the teams out and had been presented with a pair of golden boots prior to the kick off in recognition of his feat. Matt Calland reduced the deficit for the 12-man Bulls but, on the stroke of half-time, the outstanding Farrar set up another try for Forster, this time from a kick, to give the home fans an eight point lead and genuine belief that this was to be their day.

The Bulls’ anticipated second half comeback didn’t materialise. They turned the ball over from the kick off and a gleeful Mike Wainwright extended their lead further. They made a token effort to get back into the game but Michael Eagar sealed an emphatic win when finishing a move created by Ian Knott and Duffy with just over a quarter of an hour remaining.

The win was the highlight of the season for the club. They went on to win only one from the next nine and ended a disappointing campaign in tenth place; only above Salford and the largely dreadful Huddersfield.

However, over 6,000 punters went home happy and even in a poor campaign the Wire had beaten the Champions.

Warrington: Lee Penny, Chris Rudd, Toa Kohe-Love, Michael Eagar, Mark Forster, Jonathan Roper, John Duffy, Gary Chambers, Danny Farrar, Danny Nutley, Steve McCurrie, Chris Morley, Mike Wainwright. Subs: Ian Knott, Warren Stevens, Mark Hilton & Jason Roach.

Bradford: Stuart Spruce, Tevita Vaikona, Graeme Bradley, Matt Calland, Abi Ekoku, Robbie Paul, Shaun Edwards, Bernard Dwyer, Nathan Graham, Brian McDermott, Sonny Nickle, Mike Forshaw, Steve McNamara. Subs: Jon Scales, Jeremy Donougher, Tahi Reihana & Andy Hodgson.

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