WAKEFIELD TRINITY Wildcats went from looking like champs to chumps as they blew a golden opportunity at Hull KR yesterday.
Eight days after their 50-0 Challenge Cup final drubbing by Leeds Rhinos, Hull KR were there for the taking.
Wildcats tore them apart in the opening quarter and when they led 12-0, on 22 minutes, the visiting fans were chanting “Are we Rhinos in disguise?”
But then the wheels came off Wildcats’ attack. They scrambled as well as they have all year in defence, but mistakes crept in and some good opportunities were missed.
Rovers, trailing only 12-10 at the interval, went eight points clear and when Wildcats finally woke up it was too late.
It finished four tries each, but Wildcats managed just one conversion to Rovers’ two.
One of the positives for Wakefield was the return of full-back Kevin Locke, who scored a brace of tries in his first game since suffering a pectoral muscle injury two months ago. He opened the scoring after eight minutes, getting up out of a couple of half-hearted tackles from Tim Smith’s pass.
Maurice Blair was pulled down just short and Greg Burke spilled Shaun Lunt’s pass on Wildcats’ line before Lee Smith finished strongly at the corner off good work by his namesake.
That was on 17 minutes and five later Jacob Miller made an initial break, Jordan Tansey passed inside and Locke picked up to cross again.
Lee Smith missed the first two conversion attempts, so Tansey took over and sent his kick crashing against a post.
The second attempt was a tough one, but the others were ones a good kicker – which Smith and Tansey both are – would normally expect to land.
Hull KR got back into the game, completely out of the blue, on 30 when Tim Smith’s kick was charged down by Josh Mantellato inside his own half and the winger raced clear for a try which Kieran Dixon improved.
The hosts’ second try, six minutes before the break, was another case of something out of nothing.
Dane Chisholm chipped over the defence on the final tackle, regathered and fed Tyrone McCarthy and his final pass was finished by Dixon. Mantellato couldn’t add the extras, so Wildcats went in at the break with a two-point lead, which should have been much more.
Locke almost completed his hat-trick early in the second half, but was eventually tackled by Mantellato after twice getting past Chisholm.
Reece Lyne was held up by Dixon, Joe Arundel just failed to take Tim Smith’s kick behind Rovers’ line and Pita Godinet was tackled into touch by Ken Sio 10 metres out.
Just one of those chances could have won the game for Wildcats, but Rovers rode their luck and went ahead with 14 minutes left when Dixon crossed from Mantellato’s long pass.
Four minutes later Shaun Lunt went over for a soft try from acting-half, Mantellato converting.
That opened an eight-point gap and spurred Wildcats into a desperate late effort.
Lee Smith touched down at the corner and landed a brilliant touchline goal to cut the gap to two points and Wildcats created several chances after that, but Rovers held on.
Hull KR: Dixon, Sio, Horne, Welham, Mantellato, Marsh, Chisholm, Adam Walter, Lunt, Allgood, Blair, Burke, McCarthy. Subs (all used) Green, Boudebza, Donaldson, Greenwood.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Locke, L Smith, Tupou, Lyne, Tansey, Miller, T Smith., Anthony Walker, Washbrook, Anderson, Lauitiiti, Ashurst, Simon. Subs (all used) Godinet, Arundel, Scruton, Mullally.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).