AN ALREADY diabolical season took a catastrophic twist when Wakefield Trinity Wildcats were dumped out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup by Leigh Centurions.
Wakefield, seven points adrift at the foot of First Utility Super League, comprehensively out-played the Kingstone Press Championship leaders to romp into a convincing 24-6 interval lead, but fell apart in a disastrous second half when they were out-scored 30-6.
Being that far in front – or ahead at all – is unfamiliar territory for Wakefield and they couldn’t handle it. From playing an intense, smart and disciplined game in the opening 40, they fell apart after the break.
Wakefield gave away needless penalties, missed key tackles and did almost nothing creative with what little ball they managed to get their hands on.
It was a shocking capitulation and, unlike some of their defeats this year, could not be blamed on injuries: Dean Collis and Lopini Paea both returned from long-term lay-offs and captain Danny Kirmond was also back in the side. He was involved in an incident which changed the momentum, early in the second half, when he was sin-binned – along with Leigh’s ex-Wildcats winger Liam Kay – for punching.
Leigh scored two tries when it was 12-a-side, through Jonny Pownall and Bob Beswick, to cut the gap to six points on 54 minutes.
Moments later Ryan Brierley created a wonderful touchdown for Tom Armstrong and then had one ruled out himself, for offside, before Wakefield regained the lead from the subsequent penalty, Paul McShane, who was one of their most threatening players with ball in hand, sending Jon Molloy storming between the posts and Craig Hall adding the extras.
They should have been able to see the game out from there, but Wakefield, who have lost their last 11 league games, have no idea how to protect a lead and tries by Sam Hopkins and former Wildcat Oliver Wilkes saw Leigh through to the quarter-finals and left the hosts in despair.
It was so different in the first half as Wildcats seemed to be on course for a win which could have turned their season around. Chris Riley opened the scoring with a long-range effort and Joe Arundel touched down twice from kicks by McShane, either side of Nick Scruton’s try from a pass by the hooker close to the line. McShane also had an effort ruled out because of a double-movement.
Hall converted three of the four tries and booted a penalty, after Brierley had got Leigh off the mark with a try and Martyn Ridyard landed the first of his six conversions.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Hall, Owen, Collis, Arundel, Riley, Miller, T Smith. Scruton, McShane, Anderson, Washbrook, Kirmond, Kavanagh. Subs Lauitiiti, Paea, Molloy, Simon.
Leigh Centurions: McNally, Pownall, Platt, Armstrong, Kay, Ridyard, Brierley, Moimoi, Beswick, Hock, Goulden, Dixon, Acton. Subs Haggerty, Hopkins, Wilkes, Barlow.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield). Attendance: 3,859.