Huge task for Wakefield Trinity to avoid another French lesson in Challenge Cup
However, that is the invidious position Wakefield Trinity find themselves in this morning.
Utterly outplayed and out-fought by an impressive Catalans Dragons during Saturday’s hastily rearranged Super League game – suffering one of the biggest losses in their history – they face the ruthless French side again this Saturday.
The prize at stake this time, though, is a place in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals; if Chester can turn his embarrassed players around over the next five days and forge a positive result it will surely rank as one of the 41-year-old’s greatest feats in the sport.
That is because, as brilliant as Catalans were – and they were excellent with Sam Tomkins in sublime form orchestrating matters from full-back – Wakefield were so utterly wretched.
It is hard to know where to begin. Well, Trinity did not really begin. There’s a start.
“It is very un-Wakefield like that we get beat on effort and we certainly did tonight,” said a shell-shocked Chester after Tom Davies and Matt Whitley had both helped themselves to hat-tricks in a 10-try rout.
“There are a few decisions to be made for next week.”
It would be no surprise if he dropped a raft of players in readiness for the sixth round tie although that in itself would be a gamble; a decent Cup run is perhaps the best Wakefield can hope for this year so he might rely on some of his misfiring regulars being stirred into action if given a second chance.
“That is the good thing about having young kids in your squad,” Chester continued, when looking at his options.
“Alex Walker is still young, we have got Jack Croft, Connor Bailey and Yusuf Aydin that are all chomping at the bit.
“Having watched the way that team performed tonight, I reckon they will perform a lot better than some of the senior guys we had out there today.”
His hands will be tied in some regards given he lost three players to injury on Saturday, although that was no way an excuse given much of the damage had already been done by that point.
Lee Kershaw, in for the injured Tom Johnstone, came off with a torn hamstring and could face a long spell out.
Former Catalans full-back Tony Gigot (knee) and Kelepi Tanginoa (ribs) also suffered issues before the break as Dragons – even without talisman Israel Folau after his wife gave birth to their first child – ran riot.
Chester saw Matty Ashurst and Joe Westerman return to the pack while Ryan Hampshire came in at half-back for Max Jowitt but they were all left powerless as Trinity continually got exposed defensively.
Remarkably, Catalans have now scored 98 unanswered points in the last 138 minutes of action, having come from 14-0 down to beat Castleford Tigers 40-14 the previous week.
They briefly went top of Super League on Saturday and, on this form in this truncated season, will fancy their chances of reaching a Grand Final.
Yet consistency has always been their issue and it will be interesting to see if Steve McNamara can discover that this term and build on their 2018 Challenge Cup glory.
Ahead of the Cup tie, Chester said: “The biggest lesson I learnt is that we are a better team when we try and move teams around.
“We changed the plan to try and challenge Catalans’ middles and it backfired on us. In that respect, I will take the responsibility. But there were some individuals out there and senior guys as well that were way below any standards of a Wakefield Trinity player.”
It was a worrying performance for Chester to witness and his side have already lost five of their seven league games.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance,” he added, Samisoni Langi (2), Julian Bousquet and Fouad Yaha also touching down.
“The first four sets we didn’t complete and there were some six-agains in there as well.
“It was a tough night but I can’t take anything away from Catalans, I thought they were far superior to us. It’ll take some time to digest this. But I am looking forward to coming up against them next week.”
Wakefield Trinity: Gigot; Kay, Lyne, Tupou, Kershaw; Miller, Hampshire; Kopczak, J Wood, Tanginoa, Pitts, Ashurst, Westerman. Substitutes: K Wood, Fifita, Navarrette, Tangata.
Catalans Dragons: S Tomkins; Davies, Langi, Mead, Yaha; Maloney, Drinkwater; Casty, McIlorum, Moa, Whitley, J Tomkins, Garcia. Substitutes: Bousquet, Jullien, Baitieri, Kasiano.
Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).
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