WAKEFIELD TRINITY may have fallen short against champions Wigan Warriors but they will earn plenty of plaudits for this mighty effort.
Boss Chris Chester had described them as “soft” and “clueless” at times during the Good Friday defeat at Castleford when they trailed 36-12 at half-time.
However, they were anything but here as they challenged the World Club kings across the park with a display full of energy, commitment and vigour so rarely seen in Easter Monday fixtures.
Well-served by the likes of centre Mason Caton-Brown and hard-running prop Keegan Hirst, who both came into the side, and forceful winger Tom Johnstone, they were competitive throughout.
Indeed, it was not until young Wigan winger Liam Marshall grabbed his ninth try in seven games as late as the 77th minute – the only score of a tense second period – that the visitors could breathe easily.
The hosts were the better side in the first half and unfortunate to be 12-10 down at the turnaround.
The game was level at 6-6 when centre Anthony Gelling, in his 100th game for Wigan, was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, lifting Caton-Brown’s leg in the 29th minute before the centre nosedived back to the ground.
However, Mitch Allgood fumbled in the next set – something Wakefield did too often when they gained good attacking position – and the visitors were let off the hook.
Instead, the champions, who had struggled for any decent strike chances aside from captain Sean O’Loughlin’s fifth-minute converted opener, actually went ahead four minutes later when still down to 12 men.
Winger Thomas Davies made a fine kick return to get Wakefield on the backfoot and, then England stand-off George Williams crabbed across field before turning back inside to find France full-back Morgan Escare flying though from halfway.
He showed great pace to round Scott Grix and converted his own try, too.
However, when Wakefield forced Wigan’s Ryan Sutton into an error in the visitor’s’ own 20, this time they capitalised.
Liam Finn spread the ball wide for Grix to find enough space to supply Ben Jones-Bishop, the winger who finished well for his sixth try in just five games.
Finn failed to convert from wide out but Wakefield were clearly in the mood.
It was Finn who had kept the ball alive on the last tackle in the ninth minute to create their first try, Grix then finding Ashley Gibson who dinked a perfect grubber through for Grix to collect and twist out of Escare’s tackle to score on his 200th Super League appearance. Finn again could not add the extras but levelled the game with a 24th minute penalty.
In the second period, Wigan applied most of the pressure but Caton-Brown – in with Gibson for injured centres Joe Arundel and Bill Tupou – produced a timely tackle on Escare and then Wakefield rallied brilliantly to hold up Sam Powell.
It was not until after the hour mark they had any chance of note themselves but, first, Miller and, then, Wood, chose poor options near the Wigan line.
With a little more finesse things could have been so different.
Instead, Wigan, who defended manfully, escaped long enough for Marshall to strike the killer blow.
Wakefield Trinity: Grix; Jones-Bishop, Gibson, Caton-Brown, Johnstone; Miller, Finn; Huby, Wood, England, Ashurst, Hadley, Arona. Substitutes: Hirst, Allgood, Kirmond, Fifita.
Wigan Warriors: Escare; Davies, Gelling, Forsyth, Marshall; Williams, Leuluai; Flower, Powell, Tautai, J Tomkins, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Substitutes: Nuuausala, Sutton, Navarette, Gregson.
Referee: Jack Smith (Wigan).