OLD-STAGER John Kear is having the time of his life as Wakefield Trinity Wildcats defy the pundits in Engage Super League.
Kieran Hyde’s nerveless penalty goal, after the hooter had sounded, earned Wildcats a remarkable 26-24 win over visitors Hull KR yesterday – their fifth victory from 13 league matches.
Wakefield saw a 20-6 lead turned into a four-point deficit with 10 minutes left, but four minutes from time Tommy Lee’s terrific cross-kick was brilliantly taken by Josh Griffin to level the scores.
Hyde couldn’t convert from wide out, but in the final minute Ben Galea’s knock-on gave Wildcats one last chance.
Julien Rinaldi darted from acting-half and seemed to have been held up and retreated 10 metres to play the ball – but referee Phil Bentham awarded a penalty for a ball steal and Hyde landed the kick to send the home fans and players into raptures.
A delighted Kear said: “You can kick this group and put them down, then they will get up and have a dig back. That typifies the group of players we have got.
“I have enjoyed working this season as much as I have for ages. It is first class working with these boys, they are a joy to be around.
“It is great stuff. I am really enjoying myself this year and I think they are as well.”
Wildcats dominated a low-quality first half.
Rinaldi sent prop Kyle Amor over for the opening try on seven minutes, but Griffin missed the easy conversion and a try by Rovers’ Normanton-based full-back Ben Cockayne – plus the first of Michael Dobson’s four goals – made it 6-4 on 14 minutes.
At the end of the opening quarter, Chris Dean – who had been held up over the Rovers line moments earlier – powered through from Stuart Howarth’s pass, though Griffin again failed to add the extras.
Rovers regularly turned the ball over in their own territory, but Wildcats’ lack of a cutting edge – which has been a problem all season – was again evident and 8-6 didn’t look to be a big enough interval lead against opponents who couldn’t play much worse.
Wildcats addressed the problem at half-time and reaped an instant reward with two quick-fire tries.
First, James Davey embarrassed the visiting Rovers defence by nipping over from acting-half and then Aaron Murphy cut inside to blast over from Morrison’s final pass, Hyde improving both scores.
Wakefield were largely error-free, but complacency set in from the re-start, Liam Higgins knocking on and Welham darting away to score Rovers’ second try from the scrum.
On the hour, Cockayne scored his second try, against from a Green pass, before Green crossed after Mick Vella, Scott Wheeldon and Ben Galea had handled.
At 24-20, Wildcats looked dead and buried, but they still had a couple of tricks up their sleeve and Kear was adamant they deserved what they eventually got.
“We won the game, then we looked at the scoreboard (at 20-6) and thought we could clock off,” he said.
“We came up with a few errors and they got in front, but they had the character to win the game again.”
Griffin’s equalising try came after Richard Beaumont had lost the ball in Glenn Morrison’s tackle – an incident viewed differently by the rival coaches.
Kear said: “Glenn’s effort to force the knock-on was sensational.”
But his opposite number Justin Morgan was adamant the ball had been stripped – and he also said the late penalty was the “wrong call”.
In response to that, Kear said: “I have spoken to Paul King and he is telling me he (Rinaldi) had scored.
“Kieran showed a bit of composure to slot the penalty between the posts. There were big efforts at the end, when they were tired after three games over Easter.
“Two wins out of three, we’d settle for that.”
* THE Yorkshire Evening Post understands Wildcats are close to signing Fijian winger Semi Tadulala for a second time.
Tadulala played for Wildcats from 2004-2007 before joining Bradford Bulls and was hugely popular during his time at the club.
He had a stint in rugby union at Gloucester and then switched to Leeds Carnegie last year, although he has found it hard to break into the starting XV at Headingley so far this calendar year.