WAKEFIELD Trinity Wildcats’ long losing run in Super League extended to nine games last night, but an improved performance gave coach James Webster and his players something on which to build.
Wakefield never threatened to end that sequence against Wigan Warriors, although they showed some impressive spirit in front of a meagre crowd of just 3,107.
Three times Wakefield hit back after going 12 points behind and they were only six points adrift at the interval.
Wigan lacked quality themselves, but the result broke a barren away run stretching back nine months and was their first victory in West Yorkshire since a play-off triumph at Huddersfield Giants in 2013.
Dom Manfredi went into the game with a chance of becoming the first player to score three successive hat-tricks in Super League. He managed one try, but was outshone by Wigan’s other winger Joe Burgess, who did cross three times.
It was the Wildcats who were ahead, however, after just 40 seconds.
Matty Ryan, a second-rower playing out of position in the left-centre, made an initial break and Craig Hall was in support to cross for a try, which he also converted.
The lead was short-lived though, as Dom Crosby crashed over from Michael McIlorum’s pass for his first try in 25 months and Matty Smith landed the first of six conversions, only failing with his final attempt.
In the 13th minute, Smith ghosted through the first line of defence from McIlorum’s pass and stepped around a flat-footed Hall and when Dan Sarginson set up a try for the pacy Burgess, it seemed the game was already beyond Wakefield with only 21 minutes gone. But they refused to throw in the towel.
Reece Lyne returned after a month on the sidelines due to a hand injury and his break set up their second try. Burgess made the tackle, but on the same attack Tim Smith supplied Daniel Smith and his offload was finished by Danny Kirmond.
Hall’s conversion cut the gap to six points, but Wigan struck again before the interval, shortly after Tim Smith and Wigan’s Sam Powell had been sin-binned.
Powell played the ball and was slapped by the Wakefield man, sparking a brief skirmish between both teams.
The Wigan substitute was unfortunate to be yellow-carded, but the penalty went to the visitors, who forced a scrum near Wakefield’s line and from that Manfredi crossed off Ryan Hampshire’s pass.
Again Wakefield came back, after back-to-back penalties in the final moments of the half, Pita Godinet nipping over from close to the line as the hooter sounded, Hall adding the extras.
Wigan went 12 points clear for the third time just three minutes after the interval when Burgess scored his second try after Sarginson had split the defence.
But again Wakefield replied. A poor pass near his own line by Taulima Tautai, who joined Wigan from Wakefield in the off-season, was snapped up by Godinet who put Chris Riley over.
Lee Mossop’s try on the hour edged Wigan three scores clear and although Burgess had a ‘touchdown’ disallowed by the video referees on 62 minutes, he completed his hat-trick and the scoring just a minute later.
Wakefield lost teenage forward Jordan Crowther to a shoulder injury in the first half and former Leeds front-rower Ian Kirke, making only his second senior appearance after the Challenge Cup win over Halifax, suffered a suspected broken thumb.
Meanwhile, Wakefield chairman Michael Carter is increasingly frustrated after it emerged plans for the club’s proposed new ground had hit problems with its developers and may not now go ahead.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Hall, Owen, Ryan, Lyne, Riley, Godinet, TSmith, Scruton, McShane, Kavanagh, Washbrook, Kirmond, Crowther. Substitutes: Lauitiiti, D Smith, Kirke, Simon.
Wigan Warriors: Hampshire, Manfredi, Gelling, Sarginson, Burgess, Williams, M Smith, Mossop, McIlorum, Crosby, J Tomkins, Farrell, Bateman. Substitutes: Powell, Tautai, Flower, Clubb.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).