THE DEFEAT hurt, but recruit Tinirau Arona was as encouraged as disappointed by Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ opening game of the season.
Wildcats kicked off their First Utility Super League campaign with a 24-16 home loss to Widnes Vikings, after trailing 18-4 at the break.
Coach Brian Smith’s side led early on and matched Widnes for much of the match, but let their opponents off the hook with an error or penalty whenever they seemed to be gaining the upper hand.
Arona felt it was a step forward from the 32-6 loss at Castleford Tigers in Wildcats’ full-scale practice match two weeks earlier and he believes Wakefield will win games this year, if they improve in some key areas.
“I think we can take a lot of positive things out of that game,” said the Cook Islands international, who joined Wakefield from Cronulla Sharks.
“All the boys tried hard and it is only round one, so we’ve a lot of work to do over the next few weeks. I thought we did well to get ourselves back in a position to win the game.
“Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but it was good to see the boys not give up and we still fought hard for each other.”
Widnes have a big pack and Arona was lifted by the way Wakefield’s forwards competed.
He said: “That was one of our main goals after the Castleford trial, especially with the forwards, just to try and muscle up a bit more and be a bit more dominant.
“I think our forwards did really well in that department.
“We showed a lot of heart and we really worked for each other in the middle of the field.
“I thought our backs did a good job of getting us out of our own end at times.
“They fought well to get us on the front foot, so we are in a good position at the moment.
“We have to work on a few little things and we will get better as the weeks roll on.”
Wildcats, who visit Castleford on Sunday, defended solidly, but Arona admitted they have to make fewer mistakes with ball in hand.
“We made it hard for ourselves with those errors,” he said.
“You can’t really build pressure and win the game when you are making that many errors – you are turning six tackles into 12.
“It makes it a lot harder when you don’t hold the ball and you make errors at crucial times. I think we’ve a lot of work to do, but we will get there in the end.”
Arona was one of five debutants in Sunday’s team and it was his first Super League start.
He reflected: “It is exciting times for me and all the boys.
“I think once the pitches get a bit drier we will see a lot more action.
“It is a bit boggy out there at the moment, but once it gets drier it will fall into our hands.
“We have done a lot of work with our skills, but it doesn’t help in conditions like this. Over the next month or so we’ve got an opportunity to play some tough footy and be consistent week in and week out.”