A HAT-TRICK from returning winger Tom Johnstone was the highlight of Wakefield Trinity’s 62-0 pre-season demolition of Halifax.
It was Johnstone’s first game since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury last April and he played the full 80 minutes as Trinity totally outclassed the Championship part-timers.
Johnstone took all his tries well. The first was an acrobatic finish, the second a walk-in and third a length of the field sprint. He also provided the final pass for two more of the hosts’ 11 touchdowns.
It was little more than an opposed training session for Trinity, who fielded a Super League starting 13 despite being without Ben Jones-Bishop, Bill Tupou, Craig Huby, David Fifita, Anthony England – who was ill – and the injured Tyler Randell.
That is an indication of how strong their squad has become over the past two years and suggests they will be able to cope if a run of injuries strike this season.
Wakefield were too fast out wide and strong up the middle for the Championship part-timers, scoring five first half tries to go 28-0 up at the break and keeping the pressure on in the second period, despite a host of changes.
Irish internationals Scott Grix and Liam Finn were both given some game time, after not featuring in the Boxing Day defeat by Leeds Rhinos and they were instrumental in the opening period.
Trinity, who handed a debut to new signing Justin Horo, were never tested on defence and led from the fourth minute, Finn – who finished with four conversions – and Grix linking to send Mason Caton-Brown over at the corner from a scrum after Ben Heaton had spilled Finn’s kick into touch.
Johnstone set up the second try, seven minutes later, with a pacy break down the left flank and Joe Arundel was in support to score; then the winger dived over acrobatically from his centre’s pass after Grix had made the initial charge.
Halifax could not cope with Trinity’s pace on the edges and Arundel added his second on 28 minutes, from a superb pass by Jacob Miller.
Tinirau Arona was ruled to be offside when he touched down from Finn’s kick, which was fumbled by Scott Murrell, but Trinity score3d again before the break when Finn and Grix combined to carve out another opening for Caton-Brown.
It was a similar story in the second half as Trinity showed a ruthless touch. Pauli Pauli came off the bench at half-time and displayed his power close to the line to storm over on 42 and 49 minutes.
A superb pass by another substitute, Max Jowitt, sent Johnstone over for his second and he could have added a third, but opted to send Finn across instead after being teed up by Arundel.
Forward substitute James Batchelor made a strong contribution off the bench, including five goals from six attempts. One of those was to improve his own try after he forced his way through the middle with five minutes left.
But Johnstone’s comeback was the story of the day and it was completed in the final seconds when he pounced on a Halifax effort near his own line and raced the length of the field for his hat-trick score.
Wakefield Trinity: Scott Grix, Caton-Brown, Lyne, Arundel, Johnstone, Miller, Finn, Baldwinson, Wood, Hirst, Ashurst, Horo, Arona. Subs Hampshire, Crowther, Batchelor, Kirmond, Kershaw, Jowitt, Pauli, Annakin, Ackroyd.
Halifax: Sharp, McGrath, Butler, Syme, Heaton, Murrell, Johnston, Jacob Fairbank, Kaye, Jack Fairbank, Dewhirst, Davies, Simon Grix. Subs Jones, Moore, Morris, Calcott, Brook, Morgan, Stringer, Tyrer.
Referee: Tom Crashley (Wakefield).