AUSTRALIAN maverick Jarrod Sammut endured a difficult first year at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, but his late brace of tries contributed to a morale-boosting pre-season win over Featherstone Rovers.
Wakefield signed Sammut from then-financially-stricken Bradford Bulls just two days before the start of the 2014 season.
From Wakefield’s point of view, that deal was as much about weakening their relegation rivals’ squad as it was strengthening their own and Sammut never looked fully settled at Belle Vue.
Sammut, who can play almost anywhere in the backs, made 17 appearances for Wakefield, but struggled to establish himself as a first-choice player and even had one game on dual-registration for Featherstone in the Championship.
He was named among 10 substitutes for yesterday’s second pre-season game and had to wait until deep into the second half before being introduced to the action, along with forward Chris Annakin, when Rovers trailed only 18-14
The pair made an immediate impact with Sammut crossing from Annakin’s pass within a minute and the Maltese international added a second after the hooter – sealed with a spectacular swan-dive – when Reece Lyne had hacked on from a Featherstone fumble.
Sammut’s cameo may have given James Webster something to think about, but the Trinity coach had mixed feelings afterwards.
Wakefield were beaten 50-28 at Leeds Rhinos in their first trial game, on Boxing Day and asked if he was feeling better after their latest performance, Webster admitted: “Yes and no.”
He said: “We were very scratchy. For 20 minutes in the second half we only had two sets with the ball and we dropped it both times.
“I am pleased our tryline defence looked better than it did against Leeds. We have ironed a few things out, but we are a good way off still.”
Wakefield have scored 10 tries in their two warm-up matches and Webster added: “I thought some of our things in attack were good. Craig Hall showed why we bought him.
“He can not only goal kick well, he can finish some tries off for us. There’s more positives than negatives, but we are realistic – we know we need to be better.”
One concern for Webster was a knee injury suffered by prop Nick Scruton, who will be assessed before Wakefield’s squad head to north Wales for a training camp this week.
Despite the result, Featherstone’s Andy Hay was the happier coach. His men had also begun their pre-season campaign with a defeat, 18-0 at Castleford Tigers two weeks earlier and he reflected: “I said before the game we needed to improve from our last outing and I thought we did. I thought in the first half Wakefield were very good and made us come off our own line nearly every set.
“That made it difficult for us to get any momentum going. In the second half we moved the ball a little bit better and got some joy out of it. I was really pleased with the hit-out. Some of our defence we need to fix up, we clocked off a bit on some plays, but attacking-wise, we’ve done a bit more on it and you can see it’s paid off, though our timing and execution still needs to improve.”
Wakefield led 12-0 at the break through tries by young winger Tom Johnstone, after Pita Godinet had hacked on Tim Smith’s kick and Matty Ryan, off a pass by Paul McShane.
Kicks by Featherstone half-back Gareth Moore created tries for Will Sharp and Liam Walmsley early in the second half, before he again put boot to ball, but Danny Kirmond charged down and went over to ease the home side’s nerves.
Nathan Chappell and Thomas Minns crossed for Rovers either side of Sammut’s first score and then Craig Hall scored a fine solo effort – to go with his four conversions – before the Australian’s last-gasp second.
Paul Sykes and Moore, both ex-Wakefield players, kicked a goal each for the visitors.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Hall, Johnstone, Collis, Lyne, Riley, Miller, T. Smith, Scruton, Godinet, Anderson, Ryan, Kirmond, Washbrook. Substitutes: McShane, Simon, Paea, D Smith, Triout, Owen, Lauitiiti, Molloy, Sammut, Annakin.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Blackmore, Minns, Chappell, Sharp, Sykes, Moore, Baldwinson, Irwin, Wood, Cording, Lockwood, Spears. Substitutes: Ellis, James, Foster, Walmsley, Milner, Ormondroyd, Johnson, Tonks, Teasdale.
Referee: J Child (RFL).