Cross-Pennine Derby:Bulls Not a Challenge for Wigan
Bradford v Wigan | Sunday 15:30 - live on BBC 2
Wigan Warriors will quite literally be grabbing the Bulls by the horns this weekend as they continue their quest for their first Challenge Cup triumph since 2002.
The Warriors (1/14 - 80 minutes) have a long and illustrious association with this famous competition, lifting the trophy on no more than seventeen occasions. In the past it seemed that Wigan almost had a monopoly on the Challenge Cup. Eight straight wins in the late eighties and early nineties cemented the Cherry and White's place in Challenge Cup folklore.
The fifth round draw has pitted Michael Maguire's team against the struggling Bradford Bulls (13/2) and the recent form could not be more contrasting. The Warriors visit Odsal on the back of a six match winning run and have already completed a 44-10 victory over the Bulls in Super League round two. Bradford however have won just one of their last seven matches, and that solitary triumph came in the cup against Championship side Halifax. The team lost out 46-198 to Hull KR last week, slumping to 12th position in the league table.
The outlook for Mick Potter and his Bradford team looks ominous to say the least. He himself admitted "Wigan are a great side and they are playing very well at the moment. They have some great individuals and they play with plenty of width so our edge defence will have to improve drastically if we want to progress."
The handicap market provides no relief for even the most optimistic Bradford fan. Wigan have covered the handicap in each of their last three Super League matches as well as in their 4th round Challenge Cup tie. The spread for this match is 20 points. Both Bradford +20 and Wigan -20 are priced at 10/11.
The game will hinge on how the Bradford backline can cope with the pace and power of the Wigan attack. The Bulls' defence has been making simple errors and not getting the big tackles in. Bradford have the second worse defence in Super league, conceding 466 points and when you also consider their toothless attacking displays of late, it is easy to see why they are struggling.
France forward Olivier Elima will return to the squad to face Wigan in the only change from the 19 that lost out at Hull KR last week.
Wigan are in top form and playing to a very high level, performing very much like a NRL side in the manner in which they pressurize from the back and like to complete their sets of six. They also deploy an excellent kicking game, an extra dimension that Bradford will have to contend with.
In my opinion the Warriors will have far too much for Bradford and should cover the handicap (10/11) pretty convincingly. The double result of Wigan/Wigan doesn't hold much value at 1/4 so I would prefer to go with the half-time handicap of Wigan -10 at 10/11. The Warriors are notoriously fast starters while the Bulls were caught napping by Rovers last week.