NEW BOSS James Webster’s reign as Wakefield Trinity Wildcats coach began with an 18-10 win over bottom club London Broncos last night, but more by luck than judgement.
Improving London have now made the worst-ever start to a Super League season, with 16 straight defeats, but they could have had at least a share of the spoils.
Behind from the 22nd minute, Wakefield went ahead through a penalty goal with 10 minutes left and two later London had an opportunity to equalise in similar fashion.
Almost unbelievably, they opted to tap the penalty in front of the posts, 30 metres out, but knocked on early in the count and Wakefield scored the game-breaking try in the set from the scrum. These two teams are at the foot of the table for a reason and it was a poor quality contest, marred by constant handling errors, though oddly entertaining.
A balmy afternoon turned into a barmy evening, as the heavens opened right on kick-off, sending spectators running for cover and leaving parts of the stadium flooded.
The conditions had a bearing on the game and Wildcats, attacking the shallow end, were out-played in the opening period.
Webster left Jarrod Sammut out of his first team, with Paul Sykes recalled to start at stand-off, alongside the newly-returned Tim Smith.
Smith’s deft pass created the opening try for Danny Kirmond after 10 minutes, but that was Wildcats’ only serious look at the line and they were fortunate to trail only 10-4 at the interval.
Broncos’ tries came back-to-back mid-way through the half. First Matt Cook – who is set to sign for Castleford Tigers next year – scrambled over on a free play, Josh Drinkwater converting and then Atelea Vea made a break, Neisiasi Metaitonga kicked inside and Thomas Minns touched down.
Minns, the centre on a season-long loan from Leeds Rhinos, did brilliantly to slide Lucas Walshaw into touch on a rare London attack.
London forced a series of goal line drop outs and wasted a golden opportunity when George Griffin made a clean break, but passed too early to Mason Caton-Brown. Wildcats received five successive penalties either side of the break, but all that did was give them more opportunities to drop the ball.
Ironically one of their best chances came from a rare London penalty, when Drinkwater’s kick was snapped up by Matt Ryan and he counter-attacked, but the No 7 got back to make a try-saving tackle.
Iliess Macani produced Broncos’ third brilliant tackle, on Walshaw, but his heroics backfired as Wakefield moved the ball right and rather than scoring by the flag they went over between the posts, Daniel Smith touching down and Sykes adding the extras to square it up with 17 minutes left. With 10 minutes to go London were caught offside and, after a debate, Wakefield opted to go for goal, Sykes landing a 30 metre goal they didn’t really deserve.
London, though, had only themselves to blame for not equalising a couple of minutes later, when they spurned chance for the equalising goal and Macani knocked on from the tap.
Wakefield went upfield, kept the ball alive from Sykes’ kick on the last, Richard Mathers chipped over and Ryan – possibly their best player, alongside the fit-again Taulima Tautai – touched down, Sykes’ conversion completing the scoring.
Webster, who confirmed Jon Molloy suffered a shoulder injury during the win, said after the game: “I am relieved and happy for the boys because I thought we showed some true grit.
“We made it hard for ourselves but I am encouraged by the effort we showed.”
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Mathers, Owen, Ryan, Walshaw, Riley, Sykes, T Smith, Anderson, McShane, Scruton, Washbrook, Kirmond, D Smith. Subs (all used) Godinet, Tautai, Molloy, Gilmour.
London Broncos: Mataitonga, Macani, Caton-Brown, Minns, O’Callaghan, Cunningham, Drinkwater, Slyney, Moore, Greenwood, Vea, Cook, Foster. Subs (all used) Griffin, Krasniqi, Lovell, Wallace.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham,).
Splashdown: Wakefield’s Danny Kirmond, left, and Matt Ryan celebrate Kirmond’s try scored in the pouring rain during the win over London Broncos last night. +Picture: Sig Kasatkin