After an impressive first half of the season Wakefield Trinity fancy their chances of a first return to Wembley for 40 years, but they made harder work of seeing of Championship visitors Widnes Vikings than the 26-6 final score suggests.
Widnes opened the scoring in tonight’s Coral Challenge Cup sixth round tie, it was all square at the interval and Trinity were only six points ahead as late as the 74th minute.
Wakefield then ran in three tries in the final six minutes, against 12 men after Widnes full-back Jack Owens had been sent-off, but a place in Sunday’s quarter-final draw is all they will take from a below-par performance.
Trinity weren’t really troubled defensively, but made a steady stream of unforced errors and lacked urgency. Wakefield’s depleted squad has battled through a tough run of league fixtures and that may have contributed to tonight’s flat performance as they did the bare minimum to go through.
It was a poor game and nothing at all of interest happened until the 20th minute when Widnes stand-off Danny Craven kicked through on the last and a diving finish by Lloyd Roby broke the deadlock, Owens converting. Prop Craig Kopczak’s introduction off the bench injected some much-needed spark and he set up the equalising score seven minutes before the break.
Craven’s attempt to kick deep into Trinity territory sailed out on the full; in the resulting set Kopczak offloaded to Max Jowitt and – though he ran smack into a post – the full-back managed to get the ball down and Ryan Hampshire added the extras.
That was the sum total of the first half action, but Trinity came out with more intent after the break and were in front within four minutes.
Widnes spilled the ball in the opening set and, after Jowitt had been held up over the line, Dave Fifita grubbered through on the last. Fifita ran on to tackle full-back Owens, the ball came loose and the big prop touched down for a try which Hampshire improved. Justin Horo could have sealed it at the start of the final quarter, but bounced the ball over the line.
Widnes made their task even harder with 16 minutes left when Owens was sent-off for alleged foul and abusive language to a touch judge.
He was upset after the officials decided Jayden Hatton had not touched down cleanly from the full-back’s grubber over Wakefield’s line.
Even so Widnes hung in until six minutes from time when a superb run by young winger Lee Kershaw carried Trinity upfield and captain for the night Reece Lyne sent Ben Jones-Bishop in at the corner.
Trinity finally got their act together and Kershaw dived over for a spectacular try in the next set before Horo completed the scoring and Hampshire added his third goal with the final kick.
James Batchelor returned from long-term injury among Wakefield’s substitutes. Danny Kirmond was due to be rested, but stepped in after George King was called away to attend the birth of his child.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Caton-Brown, Kershaw, Reynolds, Hampshire, Fifita, Wood, Hirst, Kirmond, Horo, Crowther. Subs Batchelor, Pauli, Kopczak, Annakin.
Widnes Vikings: Owens, Hatton, Roby, Brand, Freeman, Craven, Lyons, T Chapelhow, Johnstone, E Chapelhow, Wilde, Dean, Cahill. Subs Norman, Leuluai, Farnworth, Walker.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).