Wakefield coach Brian Smith sang the praises of the club’s trio of youngsters after they stepped into the breach to help secure a precious 30-12 win over Halifax.
Already without four senior players due to disciplinary issues, the Wildcats lost two others, Lee Smith and Ali Lauitiiti, to injury on the eve of the game, prompting the elevation of full-back Max Jowitt for only his third Super League appearance and fellow 19-year-old Jordan Crowther.
Smith also recalled another youngster, Tom Johnstone, and gave a debut to prop Andy Yates, who became the 41st player to be used by the Wildcats this season.
Jowitt marked his home debut with a try and hooker Michael Sio touched down twice as Wakefield secured a top-five finish.
“I’m very proud of them, it was a hard-fought win in difficult circumstances,” Smith said.
“We had a lot of disruption and we asked a lot of particularly the three young guys.
“Jordy Crowther didn’t know he was playing until a few minutes before the game and Max found out last night.
“All three have been training for weeks and weeks without playing so to come in when match unfit and being so young, credit to them.”
Leeds-bound prop Anthony Mullally scored his first try for Wakefield and fellow front rower Mickael Simon also touched down on the stroke of half-time.
Wakefield, who go to Sheffield Eagles next Sunday, could yet secure a top-three finish but are guaranteed at least a place in the Million-Pound match to determine the 12th Super League spot for 2016.
“We’ve another game next week that means something for us, we get another opportunity,” Smith added.
Halifax were fresh from a notable win over Leigh and were level at 6-6 when winger Jake Eccleston scored an 11th-minute try but they trailed 36-6 when skipper Scott Murrell touched down for their second try three minutes from the end.
“This year been pretty good at defending our line but that was not the case today,” said Halifax coach Richard Marshall.
“They defended as if their livelihoods depended on it and shut us down when we got our chances in the second half.
“I thought there was an air of desperation around Wakefield today and they probably had bit more in the tank. I think last week took a lot out of us in terms of energy.
“But I’m really proud of our efforts and where we’ve got in this competition. To be up against the likes of Wakefield and Widnes and to be competing and not embarrassing ourselves is a credit to the team and the staff and everybody involved.”