Wildcats fend off strong Featherstone fightback

Craig Hall.  PIC: Tony Johnson
Craig Hall. PIC: Tony Johnson
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NEW SIGNING Craig Hall scored 14 points as Wakefield Trinity Wildcats held off a strong Featherstone Rovers fightback in a wind-affected pre-season game yesterday.

Hosts Wildcats, with the gale at their backs, eased into a 12-0 interval lead, but Rovers finally found their attacking groove in the second half to make a game of it.

Hall, signed from Hull KR, looked assured at full-back, scoring an eye-catching solo try late on and converting Wakefield’s five other touchdowns.

Wildcats played some nice rugby at times and looked better prepared than they had in the 50-28 defeat at Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day, but their defence again was a cause for concern.

Rovers defended strongly in the first half and their four second-half tries were reward for a determined effort after the break.

Wakefield led from the third minute when Tim Smith’s kick deceived the defence, Pita Godinet hacked on and lively young winger Tom Johnstone followed up to touch down.

Hall converted and added a second goal just before the break after Paul McShane caught the Rovers markers napping from acting-half to put Matt Ryan in for a simple score.

Wildcats had two other opportunities, Chris Riley being tackled into touch just short by Ben Blackmore before Riley snapped up a loose ball to give Reece Lyne a clear run to the line, but the pass was forward.

The first half shut-out meant Rovers had gone 120 minutes of pre-season without scoring a try, but they broke their duck at the start of the second period.

Johnstone looked to have bagged a second try when he set off on a clear run to the line, but referee James Child awarded Rovers a penalty for an off-the-ball shove.

Matty James was held up in the resulting set, but then Gareth Moore kicked to the corner and Will Sharp made a spectacular catch to touch down.

Like buses, a second try came almost immediately as Liam Walmsley – with his first touch off the bench – got to Moore’s kick, Paul Sykes converting.

That came after Lyne had again been denied by a forward pass ruling, this time from Jacob Miller.

Moore’s third kick of the half led to a third try, but it went to Wakefield, as Danny Kirmond charged the ball down, held on and galloped over to gift Hall an easy conversion.

Rovers added a third try with a neat right-to-left move, finished off by centre Nathan Chappell, who has returned to the club after a year in Australia.

Wildcats coach James Webster left it late to bring on Chris Annakin and Jarrod Sammut, but they had an instant impact with 13 minutes left when the former’s pass put the latter over and Hall added the extras.

But then Annakin made a mistake from the re-start, Thomas Minns took advantage and new kicker Moore’s goal made it 24-20 with 10 left..

Defences had given up by this stage and Hall weaved through some weak attempted tackles to score Wakefield’s fifth try, just two minutes later, though he couldn’t convert.

Wakefield grabbed a sixth try after the hooter when Sammut dived over from Lyne’s kick, Hall drop-kicking the conversion.

Wakefield: Hall, Johnstone, Collis, Lyne, Riley, Miller, T. Smith, Scruton, Godinet, Anderson, Ryan, Kirmond, Washbrook. Subs McShane, Simon, Paea, D Smith, Triout, Owen, Lauitiiti, Molloy, Sammut, Annakin.

Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Blackmore, Minns, Chappell, Sharp, Sykes, Moore, Baldwinson, Irwin, Wood, Cording, Lockwood, Spears. Subs Ellis, James, Foster, Walmsley, Milner, Ormondroyd, Johnson, Tonks, Teasdale.

Referee: James Child.

Attendance: 1,597.