IT was the same old story for new-look Wakefield Trinity Wildcats as they began the First Utility Super League season with a 24-16 defeat at home to Widnes Vikings.
Despite trailing by 14 points at the break Wakefield matched Widnes for much of the game and they out-scored the visitors in the second half, but mistakes at key times cost them any chance of a morale-boosting early win.
Wildcats fielded five debutants and there were only five survivors from the victory at Castleford Tigers’ in last season’s opening fixture.
It will take time for them to gel, particularly the new half-back partnership of Jacob Miller and Liam Finn, but there were signs Wildcats will be more competitive this term if they can tidy up in some areas, particularly with ball in hand.
The hosts scored a couple of excellent tries and there were several outstanding defensive efforts, but they let Widnes off the hook and put themselves under pressure by turning the ball over cheaply.
Ben Jones-Bishop, one of the the debutants, summed up Wakefield’s day. He was involved in their final try and threatened on attack, particularly in the early stages, but made three big blunders.
Wildcats drew first blood after seven minutes when Stuart Howarth dummied over from acting-half. Reece Lyne’s magnificent try-saving tackle kept Patrick Ah Van out, but Widnes went ahead at the end of the first quarter through a try by Setaimata Sa – who eased over from Kevin Brown’s pass – and the first of Rhys Hanbury’s four conversions.
Anthony England showed up well on his competitive debut and was inches away from restoring the hosts’ lead, but he spilled the ball after some improvised handling on the last.
It was an even contest at that stage, but back-to-back tries late in the half left Widnes well in command at the break. Hanbury swooped in from Lloyd White’s excellent off-load, after he had been teed up by Brown and then the ball came loose following a mix-up between Jones-Bishop and Tom Johnstone close to Wakefield’s line, and Sa had a walk-in for his second. Jones-Bishop dropped Hanbury’s second-half kick-off and it took a magnificent tackle by Bill Tupou to prevent Corey Thompson extending the visitors’ lead. Wakefield rode their luck and hit back almost immediately when Lyne finished strongly at the corner following good passing by Jon Molloy and Joe Arundel, Finn adding the extras. But Jones-Bishop’s fumble, from Joe Mellor’s kick, conceded a scrum close to Wildcats’ line and White sneaked over from acting-half for Widnes’ fourth try.
Wakefield showed what they are capable of when Jones-Bishop linked superbly with Finn to create a touchdown for Sio, which Finn converted, but the home team had left themselves too much to do.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Jones-Bishop, Johnstone, B Tupou, Arundel, Lyne, Miller, Finn, Scruton, Howarth, England, Ashurst, Kirmond, Arona. Subs Sio, Anderson, A Tupou, Molloy.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury, Thompson, Bridge, Runciman, Ah Van, Mellor, Brown, O’Carroll, White, Dudson, Sa, Farrell, Cahill. Subs Dean, Manuokafoa, Houston, Heremaia.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington). Attendance: 5,240.