Peter Smith’s verdict: Spirited Wakefield Trinity are booted out of the Challenge Cup by Catalans Dragons

WAKEFIELD TRINITY travelled to Huddersfield for their Coral Challenge Cup sixth round tie against Catalans Dragons knowing they could only improve.

Monday, 24th August 2020, 8:27 am
Wakefield's Tinirau Arona scores late on against Catalans Dragons. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

A worse performance than in their 58-0 Betfred Super League drubbing by the same opposition exactly a week earlier was unimaginable and Trinity did put up a much better effort, but not by enough to keep their Wembley hopes alive.

The 36-24 reverse was Trinity’s third in as many games since the sport’s restart from the coronavirus shutdown, but – encouragingly – they actually looked capable of winning the tie for a brief spell after half-time and earned credit for a strong finish once the game had gone and the scoreline threatened to blow out.

Without the suspended Sam Tomkins, Catalans weren’t as clinical as the previous meeting, but still managed to score six tries – four of them from kicks, which proved Wakefield’s undoing.

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Wakefield's Jay Pitts touches down for his second try against Catalans Dragons on Saturday. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

With injuries biting in the outside-backs, Wakefield had Jack Croft and Max Jowitt as a makeshift combination on their right-flank and they were targeted by Catalans’ kicking game, to devastating effect.

Man-of-the-match Josh Drinkwater’s boot created three first-half tries, David Mead touching down for two of them en-route to an impressive hat-trick and the Papua New Guinea centre turned provider for one in the second period.

“They kicked the ball better than us,” Wakefield coach Chris Chester admitted.

“We needed to defend those kicks better, we needed more pressure on Drinkwater.

Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester watches on from the sidelines at Huddersfield. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“We had a pretty inexperienced edge on that right-side – young Max Jowitt and Jack Croft and Rocky Hampshire –that had just been thrown together at the last minute, after Reece [Lyne] got suspended.”

Mead and Fouad Yaha profited from Drinkwater’s kicks as Dragons went 12-0 up inside 24 minutes, James Maloney tagging on the first two of his six goals.

Trinity’s prospects at that stage looked as bleak as the weather, but they – unexpectedly – hit back when Jay Pitts touched down a kick by Hampshire, who also converted. That came off a break by Jacob Miller.

Frustratingly, though, Jordan Crowther knocked-on in the set from the restart, Maloney took the two from a penalty after a high shot and then Mead went over again off another Drinkwater kick, the score going from 12-6 after 31 minutes to 20-6 at half-time.

Wakefield had their best spell in the 14 minutes after the interval, putting Dragons under pressure and cutting the gap to eight points when Pitts again got downward pressure to a Hampshire kick.

But then Pitts – with blood pouring from a head wound – and Catalans’ Michael McIloroum were sin-binned following a skirmish and the penalty went to the French side.

That was the game’s decisive moment. Within six minutes Ben Garcia, from acting-half close to the line, Mead for his hat-trick score and Matt Whitley, off a kick by Mead, had all crossed to end the prospect of a Trinity fightback.

It was frustrating for Chester who had seen indications of what his team, even missing several key players through injury or suspension, can do.

He reflected: “We are a good footy side when we play for 80 minutes, but we’ve just got the inconsistency at the moment.

“We are playing well for parts of the game, but we just take our foot off the gas or come up with some poor errors.”

At 36-12 with 20 minutes left, Wakefield were in danger of conceding another half century, but – to their great credit – they never stopped battling and were rewarded with two late tries.

Tinirau Arona powered over four minutes from time and with two minutes left Jacob Miller scored from yet another Hampshire kick. Hampshire finished with four goals from as many attempts.

“They had plenty of spirit out there,” Chester said of his side.

“We just weren’t good enough, again, on the day.

“We showed for parts of the game we are a good footy side when we get our timing right and people are in the right positions, but we were a bit inconsistent with the way we defended.

“We leaked 36 points and you can’t do that and expect to win a game.”

Innes Senior, signed on loan from Huddersfield Giants, came in for his Trinity debut on the left wing and made a good first impression.

“I thought he was really good,” Chester said.

“He looks a big, physical kid and he carries the ball really well.

“He has got a good understanding already with Bill Tupou on the left-edge.”

Catalans Dragons: Morgue, Davies, Mead, Folau, Yaha, Maloney, Drinkwater, Casty, McIlorum, Maria, Whitley, J Tomkins, Garcia. Subs Jullian, Goudemand, Batieri, Kasiano.

Wakefield Trinity: Walker, Senior, Tupou, Croft, Jowitt, Miller, Hampshire, Fifita, K Wood, Arona, Pitts, Ashurst, Westerman. Subs Crowther, Tanginoa, Navarrete, Kopczak.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).

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Thank you, Laura Collins