THERE were plenty of question marks about just how Wakefield Trinity would deal with the heavy raft of injuries that has denied them so many star players this term.
Chris Chester’s side generally keep answering those queries positively as they showed again last night with yet another dramatic and spirited win over Huddersfield Giants.
They lost three of their nine injured first-teamers – Danny Brough, Jacob Miller and Anthony England – when they beat the same opponents 17-16 just four weeks ago.
Once more they broke Huddersfield hearts with another late finish, Ryan Hampshire slotting a 75th-minute penalty to win by a solitary point again and move back into third.
Huddersfield had been 18-6 down and booed off at half-time following an error-strewn first period. However, with two converted tries from England winger Jermaine McGillvary and another from hooker Adam O’Brien they fired back into a 24-18 lead by the 57th minute.
Nevertheless, Simon Woolford’s side – who have now lost three of their last four games – have an irritating habit of shooting themselves in the foot.
Darnell McIntosh, the young full-back who has excelled this term, suffered two severely costly moments.
First he spilled on the first tackle from a scrum just 20m from the Wakefield line and could only watch on as Ben Jones-Bishop raced almost the length of the pitch to score for Hampshire’s conversion to level in the 65th minute. Three minutes later, Giants forward Ukuma Ta’ai was sin-binned for a high tackle on Jordan Crowther, yet his side actually regained the lead while he was off, Trinity full-back Max Jowitt this time dropping on the first tackle to allow Oliver Russell to slot a drop goal.
However, McIntosh’s next mistake saw him spill a kick with no one near him and, in the next set, Giants were penalised for offside right next to the posts. Hampshire was never going to miss.
McIntosh almost atoned by claiming a short restart as Huddersfield desperately tried to retrieve the situation, but young scrum-half Russell kicked early in the set and Wakefield survived.
They had been 12-0 ahead in as many minutes following Mason Caton-Brown’s early double, the centre who has scored four tries in as many games since returning to the club. The first was well-worked, slicing through from a fine Ben Reynolds cut-out pass after Danny Kirmond had kicked through to force a drop-out.
However, the second was soft from Huddersfield’s point of view, Russell, the talented but slight half-back, unable to stop Caton-Brown as he muscled over from dummy-half.
Trinity threatened to do more damage. However, the hosts managed to stem the tide when forcing a drop-out of their own for Matt Frawley to dummy his way over in the 16th minute, Russell’s conversion halving the deficit.
Still, as has so often been the case, Woolford’s side quickly self-inflicted more wounds.
No one challenged for Hampshire’s high kick 20m out meaning Caton-Brown could palm back to Dave Fifita.
Then no one challenged the big prop as he dinked in an unlikely kick towards the posts before McIntosh made a hash of dealing with it allowing Fifita to pounce for his sixth try of the season.
Hampshire made it 18-16, but his side – who lost prop Tini Arona to a serious knee injury – then spent most of the rest of the half successfully defending their own line.
There was some sterling efforts in there, not least from Crowther who produced a shuddering hit on Alex Mellor as the Giants second-row tried getting over on the last tackle.
Similarly, hooker Tyler Randell just managed to deny a stepping Frawley at the last.
That was all the more impressive given, at that point, the jaded Australian was waiting to be replaced having put in a quality 33-minute opening stint in his first game back since injuring a shoulder on the opening day in February.
Jowitt, though, was lucky not to get yellow carded for holding back McGillvary as the England winger chased his own kick down the touchline.
However, much of Huddersfield’s attack was clunky with too many passes going to ground.
They started the second period slightly better with McGillvary’s double and O’Brien’s score.
But yet again, having squandered a winning position at Warrington the previous week, they stumbled here.
Huddersfield Giants: McIntosh, McGillvary, Turner, I. Senior, Uate, Russell, Frawley, Ta’ai, Leeming, Matagi, Murphy, Mellor, Lawrence. Substitutes: O’Brien, Roberts, Hewitt, Clough.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Caton-Brown, Kershaw, Hampshire, Reynolds, Fifita, Randell, Arona, Kirmond, Horo, Crowther. Substitutes: Wood, Kopczak, King, Pauli.
Referee: J Child (RFL).