WHEN YOUR head coach publicly accuses you of a lack of effort, enthusiasm and desire, more often than not, there has to be a positive response.
Outstanding Wakefield Trinity clearly had that in mind last night when their players – shamed almost by Chris Chester after last Friday’s embarrassing 36-6 Super 8s defeat at Huddersfield – retaliated in the perfect manner with a record Super League win over Leeds Rhinos.
They surged back into the top-four with a clinical destruction of their second-placed opponents, aided by effervescent Australian playmaker Jacob Miller, celebrating his first appearance in almost three months after a badly broken leg, with a quality showing.
Derby rivals Leeds had hinted at Old Trafford form with a stunning win over Wigan Warriors last week. However, they were abysmal here, as bad as Trinity were a week ago, and their committed opponents made them pay to finally secure their first-ever Super 8s win at the ninth attempt.
Furthermore, the resounding victory by 32 points eclipsed their previous biggest summer era winning margin of 20 against Leeds, set in 2012 and it came despite losing captain Danny Kirmond to a head injury midway through the first period.
Wakefield, of course, had lost two games on the bounce having also crumbled at home to St Helens to miss out on the top-four at the cut.
But, driven on by relentless forwards Keegan Hirst, Tinirau Arona and Anthony England, with hooker Kyle Wood in dynamic form and Liam Finn kicking superbly, they were much more like the side that enjoyed a seven-game winning run earlier in the season.
All the grit and character was back, defensively they were rock solid – error-ridden Leeds were limited to a solitary 11th minute Adam Cuthbertson try – mistakes were erased and there was a sense from the early exchanges that they would settle for nothing less than victory.
There was little doubt they would push on for a famous win having gone ahead 26-6 on the stroke of half-time with a try from Miller which also perfectly illustrated the sort of chaos in which Leeds had become embroiled.
Rhinos had been under pressure on their own line for some time after both Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Carl Ablett conceded penalties for high tackles.
It seemed the visitors had held firm, though, when Finn dabbed a grubber in with just seven seconds remaining which was well-covered.
However, Danny McGuire missed the ball when running back and then Kallum Watkins tried swatting it dead but only hit it as far the waiting Miller who crossed for the simplest of tries.
Finn tagged on his fourth conversion having also slotted a penalty shortly before their fourth try of the night.
To demonstrate their superiority, Chester’s energised side bullied Ashton Golding back towards his own line in the 51st minute, the young full-back spilling in the process to gift Matty Ashurst another simple try on the second-row’s 200th career appearance.
Wood thought he had got over for a deserved try but that was rightly ruled out for a double-movement. Nevertheless, after yet another dropped Leeds ball, the excellent full-back Scott Grix dinked a kick through for Bill Tupou to round off the scoring in the 76th minute, Finn finishing with seven goals.
Classy Trinity fully warranted that interval scoreline having taken firm control of the contest with back-to-back tries around the 25th minute.
After yet another Rhinos mistake – Jones-Buchanan spilling an admittedly awful Matt Parcell pass on their own 30m line –Chester’s side put together a slick handling movement before Grix slipped in a kick that Ben Jones-Bishop latched onto for his 18th try of the campaign.
In the next set, the 36-year-old Jones-Buchanan was fended off by Wood, the elusive hooker who darted clear from deep in his own half and waited for former Huddersfield Giants colleague Grix – one of the most astute signings by anyone in 2017 – to arrive on his shoulder and finish.
Finn’s conversions put them 18-6 ahead and it meant they had built on a fine start, Joe Arundel – recalled for the dropped Mason Caton-Brown – having skipped past a flat-footed McGuire in the fourth minute.
Miller had put them in position with a wonderful scything run – the sort of dynamism Trinity have lacked during his nine-game absence – and the scene was set.
The former Hull FC stand-off returned at the expense of Sam Williams, his fellow Australian who was left out by Chester after that Huddersfield shambles.
Cuthbertson’s tenth try of the season came after McGuire delivered a grubber kick early in the tackle count to catch Trinity off guard, Watkins improving.
But the home side – who head to leaders Castleford next Thursday – were then so commanding that their line was barely threatened again, Trinity’s only negative the sight of Arundel departing with an elbow injury late on.
Meanwhile, Wakefield are close to finalising a deal for young Leeds forward Jordan Baldwinson in 2018.
Wakefield Trinity: Grix; Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Arundel, Tupou; Miller, Finn; Fifita, Wood, England, Kirmond, Ashurst, Arona. Substitutes: Hirst, Annakin, Hadley, Hasson.
Leeds Rhinos: Golding; Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall; Moon, McGuire; Singleton, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Ward, Ablett. Substitutes: Burrow, Delaney, Keinhorst, Mullally.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Castleford prop Junior Moors, has extended his deal until the end of 2020.