SPIRITED Wakefield Trinity Wildcats gave out-going boss John Kear the ideal send-off, with a 26-14 home win over Bradford Bulls.
Victory in Trinity’s final game of the season ended a run of nine straight defeats and – coupled with Crusaders’ loss at Wigan – ensures they avoid the wooden spoon.
A win’s a win and after the poor results of the last three months, Wildcats could be happy with the way they brought the curtain down on a traumatic campaign.
But they were the better of two poor sides and it was obvious why these teams – Bradford look set for 11th place – have finished where they are.
The poor quality was highlighted by a first half incident when Bulls’ Olivier Elima hurled a wild pass into touch near the visitors’ line, but on the first tackle from the scrum Tommy Lee chipped a kick straight to Bradford winger Shaun Ainscough.
It was a scrappy affair with a host of almost comical errors and some lacklustre tackling, but there were entertaining passages, most particularly in a madcap nine-minute spell before the break.
Wildcats were 10-0 up when Ryan Tongia had a touchdown ruled out for a pass off the ground – and the next time the hosts had possession the gap was down to just two points.
In the set from the penalty Gareth Raynor – who Wakefield had trouble getting to grips with all evening – offloaded to send Kyle Briggs in.
Then in the next set Ainscough got over at the corner from Ben Jeffries’ pass. Another penalty kept the pressure on, but the ball went loose deep in Wakefield territory and Patrick Ah Van failed to drop on it.
Tongia hacked on, he and team-mate Jeremy Smith – probably Wildcats’ best on the night – both chased, but neither could ground the ball. Bulls were so grateful for the escape they handed possession straight back and after fierce drive by Ben Gledhill, Michael Korkidas crashed over from first receiver.
Earlier Wakefield had taken advantage of Bradford’s ineptitude to score the first two tries, Paul Johnson powering over before a wonderful run by the impressive Motu Tony created field position for Tongia to cross.
Tongia got over again in the third quarter, but Josh Griffin’s pass was ruled forward and then Gledhill seemed to have scored, but the in-goal judge decided he was held up.
Bulls, though, seemed determined to keep giving Wakefield chances and from a scrum near the visitors’ line, Smith supplied Lee and he shrugged off some woeful defence to speed over, with Josh Veivers’ third goal making it 22-8.
There was a scare when Tom Burgess set up a try for Shad Royston with 13 minutes left and Patrick Ah Van converted, but in the final moments Tongia chipped over and Harlequins-bound Julien Rinaldi signed off by touching down.
Korkidas – in presumably his final game – failed to convert.
Kear was thrilled to leave on a winning note. He said: “There’s been some sad times and some really good times as well, but this has been the ideal way to finish.
“I thought all the players were magnificent – they did themselves proud.
“A lot of the guys have been playing injured and I am really pleased for the players, the club and the fans.”
Kear added: “I’m pleased we haven’t finished bottom because that was a goal at the start of the season – and we’ve won our mini-competition with Crusaders.
“It was a pretty comprehensive performance, I thought. We went toe to toe and eye to eye with the opposition and it was a good win.
“I have loved every minute of my five and a bit years here and I’m proud of what I am leaving behind.
“When you end a chapter it needs to be a good finish – and that’s exactly what it is.”
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Tony, Morton, Veivers, Griffin, Tongia, Smith, Lee, Amor, Rinaldi, Higgins, Mariano, Morrison, P Johnson. Subs (all used) Korkidas, Howarth, Gledhill, Wildie.
Bradford Bulls: Royston, Ainscough, Sykes, Ah Van, Raynor, Jeffries, Briggs, Lynch, Addy, Hargreaves, Elima, Bateman, Langley. Subs (all used) Walker, Crossley, O’Brien, Burgess.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).