COACH JAMES WEBSTER admits his Wakefield Trinity Wildcats side need a 10 to 20 per cent improvement.
Wakefield could not have tried any harder in yesterday’s 24-18 defeat at Salford Red Devils – their third successive loss – but weren’t clinical or smart enough near the opposition’s line.
“We just aren’t giving ourselves enough chances to win games,” Webster said. “We haven’t completed over 66-67 per cent since the start of the season.
“It is a high standard of rugby league we are playing, against good teams. If you are not able to execute plays correctly you’re not going to get enough chances to win games.
“We shot ourselves in the foot. Salford played well, but we were a bit short, yet again.”
Webster said his team are “trying hard”, but he added: “We are just 10/15/20 per cent short in a lot of areas at the moment.
“If we can improve – collectively, every individual – by about 15-20 per cent we will give ourselves more chance of winning games. Effort gets you close, execution and skill gets you the win.”
That lack of a killer touch was evident early on as Wakefield dominated the opening stages, but managed to get only 6-0 in front.
Chris Riley crossed the Salford line after seven minutes, in a set from a 40-20 kick, but Reece Lyne’s pass was judged forward.
Moments earlier Danny Washbrook had knocked on just short from Craig Hall’s offload, but his blushes were spared by a similar ruling.
The Salford defence had an even luckier escape on 14 minutes, when Washbrook teed-up Lyne and the strong-running centre stumbled over the line, but referee Matt Thomason disallowed it for a double movement.
Wakefield’s pressure finally paid off a couple of minutes later when Washbrook made a break and Jacob Miller was in support to score, with Hall tagging on the extras.
They looked like doubling their lead after receiving a penalty in the re-start set, but Tim Smith’s pass close to the Reds line was intercepted by Rangi Chase.
The ex-Castleford and England man made it into Wakefield territory and Greg Johnson, who was in support, did the rest. Johnson had a brief spell at Wakefield and another of the former Wildcats in Salford’s ranks, Josh Griffin, landed the first of his perfect four conversions.
Salford received back-to-back penalties following the re-start, tapped the second of them in front of the posts and were rewarded when Weller Hauraki crossed for his first Reds try, from Chase’s inside pass.
Wakefield’s defence was much improved from their previous away game, the 58-16 drubbing at Widnes and Richard Owen came up with a terrific tackle, assisted by Dean Collis and Hall, to hold Josh Griffin up over the line.
Hall then got through a gap and was headed for the line, only to be recalled for a knock-on by Tim Smith, though it looked like the ball had gone backwards.
The half-time score of 12-6 was harsh on Wakefield and it got worse four minutes afterwards when Chase dummied over for a brilliant solo try.
Paul McShane nipped through from acting-half, Hall goaling, to get Wakefield back in the contest and they seemed to have the momentum, but a 50-metre charge by 37-year-old Adrian Morley, in his 300th Super League game, turned the tide. He was pulled down just short, but Chase shipped a pass wide and Junior Sa’u went over untouched.
Inspired by the evergreen Ali Lauitiiti, Wakefield threw everything at Salford after that, Nick Scruton going close and McShane getting over off an Lauitiiti offload, only for Thomason to decide the tackle had already been completed.
They finally found a way through with three minutes remaining when Hall gathered Tim Smith’s kick for a try which he also converted, but it was too little, too late.
Wakefield were already without Scott Anderson, Ian Kirke and Matty Ashurst through injury, another forward Lopini Paea joined the casualty list the day before the game and two more forwards, Pita Godinet and Danny Kirmond, were both hurt during it.
Webster said: “I cringe when I hear other coaches complain about injuries.
“We had our chances, we’re just a little bit off – enough off not to win. I am not going to blame injuries for our loss.”
Salford Red Devils: Locke, Jones-Bishop, J Griffin, Sa’u, Johnson, Chase, Dobson, Taylor, Lee, Morley, Hansen, Hauraki, J Walne. Subs (all used): Fages, D Griffin, Tasi, Walton.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Hall, Riley, Collis, Lyne, Owen, Miller, T Smith, Scruton, McShane, D Smith, Ryan, Kirmond, Washbrook. Subs (all used): Godinet, Lauitiiti, Crowther, Simon.
Referee: Matt Thomason.