ESCAPE ARTISTS Wakefield Trinity Wildcats need to show a ruthless touch at Hull KR tomorrow, Ali Lauitiiti says.
Wildcats, who beat Hull KR at Belle Vue early in the season, have won their last two matches in the First Utility Qualifiers and a victory tomorrow would be a major step towards top-flight safety.
After a near-miss at Salford Red Devils in their opening game and then successes over the Kingstone Press Championship’s top two Bradford Bulls and Leigh Centurions, a win against Super League opposition could be enough to keep Wakefield up – if they don’t slip-up in their remaining matches against lower division teams.
“It is a big opportunity for us,” Lauitiiti said of tomorrow’s tie. “Not only us, but Hull KR as well – but we can only look at ourselves and it is a big game for us. We have been doing our best to work on the things we need to improve and we’re determined to do well.
“We are in good form, wins for us haven’t come that easily this year, but we have won our last two. The boys are putting the effort in at training and the rewards are coming. Hopefully this week we can take another step forward.”
Tomorrow’s game will be Rovers’ first since their record 50-0 drubbing by Leeds Rhinos in last Saturday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.
“They played Leeds, who are the best team in the competition,” Lauitiiti said. “They are a good team and that’s why they reached the Challenge Cup final.
“They have got a lot of dangerous players in their team and we have got to be up for a big game.”
The fact Wildcats are going into tomorrow’s match believing they can win is credit to the work put in by boss Brian Smith since he took charge three months ago, according to Lauitiiti.
“We are confident we can stay up,” said the former New Zealand and Samoa international, who is in his 11th year in England and fourth season with Wildcats.
“We’ve got a good team and a good bunch of boys and it’s just a matter of performing on the field, when it matters. If we keep believing in ourselves, we will do all right. Brian has been awesome, not only for the team, but also the club. He is an experienced coach and he has helped the young players and the older ones as well. He has been a really positive addition.”
Lauitiiti, 36, has been hampered by injury this year, but is happy with his form. He said: “I am pretty much fit and feeling good. I just want to do my part in the team and if I can do that, I’ll be happy.”
Lauitiiti signed a new two-year contract last season, but revealed he is not certain he will play on in 2016.
“It’s still up in the air, we’ll see how it goes over the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Wildcats could be boosted tomorrow by the return of World Cup finalist Kevin Locke, who has been named in their initial 19-man squad for the first time since suffering a pectoral muscle injury in July. Chris Annakin, Jordan Tansey, Andy Yates and Anthony Walker are also vying for a call-up. Michael Sio is suspended and Chris Riley and Jon Molloy drop out from the team which won at Leigh.
Greg Burke, Dane Chisholm, James Green, James Greenwood, Matty Marsh and Aaron Ollett all come into contention for Rovers, with Albert Kelly, Kevin Larroyer and Graeme Horne dropping out.
Hull KR: from Allgood, Blair, Boudebza, Burke, Chisholm, Dixon, Donaldson, Green, Greenwood, Lunt, McCarthy, Mantellato, Marsh, Ollett, Puletua, Salter, Sio, Adam Walker, Welham.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: from Anderson, Annakin, Ashurst, Arundel, Godinet, Lauitiiti, Lyne, Locke, Miller, Mullally, Scruton, Simon, L Smith, T Smith, Tansey, Tupou, Anthony Walker, Washbrook, Yates.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.