FOR the first time since July 1 last year, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have won a Super League game – and how they had to battle to do so.
Liam Finn’s superior kicking was a major ingredient, the Trinity scrum-half slotting all three of his attempts while Hull KR missed each of their trio.
However, it was Brian Smith’s side’s desperation and cussedness in defence that perhaps was the most vital component of their victory – their first at Craven Park since 2012 – as they continually denied their struggling opponents, who remain without a win this year.
Mickael Simon and Stuart Howarth scored Wakefield’s tries, Finn converting both first-half efforts, and then crucially slotting a 54th-minute penalty that eventually edged a scrappy, stop-start encounter.
Despite Hull KR being down to 12 men with Maurice Blair sin-binned for pulling back Simon off the ball, they managed to hit back with a move of rare clarity, Graeme Horne’s lovely short pass seeing Ken Sio surge through a gap from 10m out in the 61st minute.
Ryan Shaw, making his debut after a move from Bradford Bulls, took over kicking duties from Kieran Dixon, who had missed two earlier kicks but he, too, was off target.
Wakefield still had plenty to do. In the next set, Jacob Miller produced a brilliant tackle to deny Sio after Albert Kelly had set James Greenwood free down the middle.
Rovers, without a win themselves in Super League since last June, still had a chance, but Dixon spilled when diving to collect second-row Horne’s impromptu chip.
Wakefield rallied yet again to deny Dixon although Reece Lyne was penalised for tackling the Rovers winger in the air – should that have been a yellow? – before he was held up.
Nevertheless, they went again, but this time Tom Johnstone made a stunning last-ditch tackle on Shaw in the corner and when Chris Clarkson fumbled diving for Blair’s grubber, gutsy Trinity were home.
KR used the game to celebrate their 10th season in Super League, their first-ever game in the elite division being when Ben Cockayne’s last-minute try grabbed a dramatic 14-9 win against Wakefield in February 2007.
Cockayne was present again yesterday, the only Robins survivor apart from Chris Chester who, of course, is now head coach.
However, there was no repeat of those late heroics as the hosts – who had been scrappy and disorganised for much of the game – managed to shoot themselves in the foot time after time either with poor ball control or ill-discipline.
Rovers started brightly when Dixon eased in for his second try in as many games in the sixth minute following some slick passing from Blair and Iain Thornley.
Unfortunately, there was very little of the same as both sides struggled for cohesion in a first half littered with forward passes and ill-discipline.
Dixon failed to convert his own score and, when Horne, on his 100th appearance for the Robins, failed to stop the restart bouncing into touch, Wakefield were offered an immediate way back into the game.
Finn offloaded but Simon, the French prop making his first appearance of the season, should really have been stopped from 10m out.
He was not and Finn slotted the first of his two conversions.
Cockyane found himself in sight of the goalline only to stumble at the vital moment and instead it was the visitors who extended their lead.
Johnstone showed good footwork to half-break and, from his swift play-the-ball, former Hull FC hooker Howarth was afforded enough space to get over.
Finn improved the 22nd-minute try once more but both sides continued to err.
For instance, Simon spilled coming away from his own line only for Thornley to cough up in a loose carry.
Next, Trinity prop Anthony England pushed a pass forward on halfway but Thornley was held up following some desperate defence by Finn and Ben Jones-Bishop.
Wakefield did not get away with their self-harm, though, when, annoyingly, they were penalised when in possession in KR’s 20 for obstruction.
Soon after, Rovers did break them, Adam Walker crashing through off Blair’s smart cut-out pass but that was as good as it got.
Hull KR: Cockayne; Sio, Salter, Thornley, Dixon; Blair, Kelly; Walker, Lawler, Tilse, Clarkson, Horne, Allgood. Substitutes: Mulhern, Shaw, Greenwood, Green.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Jones-Bishop; Lyne, Arundel, B Tupou, Johnstone; Miller, Finn; Simon, Howarth, England, Molloy, A Tupou, Arona. Substitutes: Anderson, Sio, Annakin, Walton.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).