The Wolves found themselves 12-0 up inside the first quarter of an hour after a lovely offload by David Solomona set Lee Briers up for the opening try, and then Briers turned creator with a defence cutting pass for centre Ryan Atkins.
But Bradford got back in to the game thanks to a controversial try from Rikki Sheriffe, with video referee Steve Ganson seemingly ignoring a knock-on by Bulls centre Steve Menzies. Heath L’Estrange then showed his guile out of dummy half, piercing through the Wolves defence before finding Dave Halley on the inside, and Paul Sykes‘ conversion reduced arrears to 12-10.
But L’Estrange’s opposite number Michael Monaghan, man of the match in last season’s final, showed he was more than a match for the Bulls hooker by creating a break of his own, and then sending Vinnie Anderson around the full back and under the sticks to put Warrington two scores to the good.
The Bulls continued to generate good field position, and some sloppy defence off the back of a scrum enabled Chris Nero to score and the Bulls went in just two short at 18-16.
Warrington won the arm wrestle at the beginning of the second half, and scored an early try, Chris Hicks going in at the corner after Richie Mathers‘ superb pass exposed some narrow Bulls defending. The brilliant Monaghan strengthened Warrington’s hold on the tie just after the hour, putting in a perfect grubber kick for Hicks to touchdown in the corner, with just inches to spare.
The Bulls, however, didn’t throw the towel in and moments later they were back in the contest when Menzies rolled back the years to fight his way through, and stretch for the line, despite the best efforts of Wolves full-back Mathers, but despite a frantic finish, Warrington held out to move within 80 minutes of a second consecutive Wembley appearance.
There was a dramatic finish at Headingley as Leeds scored the only try in the final minute to see off Super League leaders Wigan 12-10 in their quarter-final.
In drab conditions, the two sides exchanged nine penalty goals to give Wigan a slender 10-8 advantage, and seemingly looking like progressing to the last four. But Leeds had other ideas, and after Amos Roberts‘ knock on, Lee Smith took advantage of some weak tackling, to go over off the back of a Rhinos scrum.
The conditions made it difficult for both sides to keep hold of the ball, and it was Kevin Sinfield who started the penalty ball rolling, missing two attempts in as many minutes, both coming back off the post. His opposite number Pat Richards then took the initiative, kicking three unanswered penalties to put Wigan 6-0 to the good.
Sinfield then clawed two back, much to the frustration of the home fans, but there was time for him to grab another penalty just before the interval to send the sides in at 6-4.
Wigan then had Liam Farrell sin-binned in the second half for a late challenge on Danny McGuire, but Sinfield opted to level things up rather than put the Warriors’ defensive line under pressure. He then decided to take the two moments later on the back of another penalty, and it turned out to be the wrong decision, as he saw his kick go wide.
Richards then edged the Warriors back in front on the hour mark, but Sinfield wasn’t to be outdone, converting from long range as the game turned in to a kicking contest akin to the Rhinos’ co-tenants, Leeds Carnegie rugby union club.
Referee Phil Bentham awarded his 21st penalty of the match to Wigan, and Richards thought he had maybe done enough to secure a Wigan win in this tryless encounter, until Smith popped up at the death to send Headingley in to raptures.
Any hopes of a shock at Mount Pleasant were soon put to bed as Catalans put in a thoroughly authoritative and professional performance to see off Championship side Batley 74-12, while Barrow went away from their tie at St Helens with their heads held high, holding their illustrious opponents to a credible 32-12 scoreline.