WAKEFIELD Trinity Wildcats head coach Brian Smith hailed the bravery of Stuart Howarth as the hooker played the last 10 minutes of yesterday’s game with a suspected broken arm.
Trinity were trying to force their first Super League win in 15 games as they trailed just 24-16 against Salford Red Devils during the final quarter in Australian Smith’s first match since taking over the bottom club.
He was pleased with some aspects of their performance, including their “stick in the tackle” as a side that has conceded more than 40 points per game on average this season, improved its defence no end.
On Howarth, who only joined from Hull FC nine days previously, Smith added: “He did a fantastic job in the last eight to 10 minutes as he appears to have suffered some sort of serious injury to his arm or wrist.
“He gutsed it out for us and it was very brave of him. He wasn’t at his most skilful best but he did occupy a position in our defensive line and never squibbed at it at any stage despite all the discomfort he was suffering.
“I’d used up the last subs in an effort to try spark us to to get the points we needed and, to be fair, in the last five minutes I thought we could still have won it.
“But we just didn’t have the quality when we needed it.”
Trinity also lost Mickael Simon with a rib problem on the hour mark but it was before that, in the 50th minute, when the game truly turned in Salford’s favour. Trailing 18-10, Wakefield winger Chris Riley had a try ruled out when he thought he had grounded the ball – and, just seconds later, Harrison Hansen scored his second for Salford to seal victory.
Smith said: “It was a long way from where I was – I’d need to see all that again. The end-on shot might show it was a try, but I think the touch-judge is well positioned enough to give it.”
He added: “There was a couple of defining minutes; the first try they scored was from an obvious knock-on from their man, he dislodged the ball but the referee didn’t see it.
“We had our chances to get back and cover it up but on the following play we couldn’t get ourselves organised which was a shame.
“Two of the things we worked on this week we got a significant improvement in, and that was about our stick in the tackle.
“When we make the contact we need to stop bouncing away. We got an effective reward for the effort of making the tackle.
“There’s still plenty to work on and some disappointing aspects, but by and large it’s a solid improvement on where we were last week.”