Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Johnstone and Hall heading for showdown

Tom Johnstone
Tom Johnstone
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GIVEN his background with both players and own experiences in the same position, Ben Jones-Bishop knows all about the quality of Wakefield Trinity winger Tom Johnstone and Leeds Rhinos counterpart Ryan Hall.

The clubs meet on Friday night in what will be a definitive fixture – if Wakefield win, their surprise top-eight place is almost confirmed, and Leeds’ faint hopes of achieving the same will be over.

There will be fascinating battles all over the park at Belle Vue but the potential match-up of Johnstone and Hall could be a highlight.

The electric Trinity youngster has been a star of Super League this term with his pace and try-scoring quality while everyone knows what England international Hall – hoping to be fit again after more than two months out – is capable of.

Having joined from Salford this season, Wakefield winger Jones-Bishop has seen Johnstone’s rise first-hand while he also played in the same Leeds side as Hall for six campaigns, winning two Grand Finals alongside the prolific wideman.

“Tom’s been great,” said the 27-year-old. “He works really hard and learns, he’s open to listen to everyone.

“I’ve tried to give him encouragement and advice and he’s just run with it really.

“I think every week he gets better and better just from that experience of playing.

“He put some massive carries in on Sunday and got us out of a bit of trouble at Huddersfield.

“He’s only 20 so has years ahead of him and will only get better.”

Hall is the finished article at 28, having scored 201 tries in 261 games for Leeds and 26 in just 27 Tests with his country.

Jones-Bishop added: “Hally was very good to play alongside and I live not far from him so we car-pooled as well.

“I was at Kallum Watkins’s wedding Saturday night and sat with him and the rest of the lads. We’re good friends.

“He’s a big handful, obviously. We’ll look to try nullify him as best we can.

“He’s had a great career at Leeds and obviously has still got plenty of years ahead of him as well.”

Jones-Bishop helped Wakefield edge a scrappy 10-2 win at Huddersfield as they bounced back from consecutive defeats.

That leaves them well-placed for the forthcoming derby –knowing their destiny is in their own hands as last season’s bottom club look to strengthen their hold on sixth and hopefully push higher still.

“We knew it’d be tough at Huddersfield,” said Jones-Bishop, who has scored seven tries in 16 games so far for Trinity.

“We knew we’d have to grind it out and rainy conditions played a part as well.

“It was just great coming back off the back of two losses to get back on the horse. The effort we put in for one another got us the victory in the end.

“We’re just looking up now. It’s very congested in those five, six, seven, eight spots.

“There’s still points and positions to be played for. We’re looking up at Cas and Widnes but obviously Saints as well.”

Defending champions Leeds, though, are in that alien position of bottom.

They at least halted a seven-game losing run by beating Salford 8-0 on Friday and Jones-Bishop knows that could spur them on. “Quite possibly. I think the biggest thing from their point of view is probably that they didn’t concede any points.

“They have been conceding quite a few points and that will probably lift the confidence massively.

“They have bodies coming back slowly. It’s been a tough year for them but I’m sure they have enough quality that they will pick up.”

Wakefield could take a step closer to securing their place in the Super 8s, though, and Jones-Bishop said: “We’ll be looking forward to getting those points as soon as possible especially being at home.”

John Kear, left, and Chris Chester

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