Catalans Dragons 36 Wakefield Trinity 24: Bloodied Jay Pitts off in Challenge Cup exit

THERE was far more effort and certainly increased quality from Wakefield Trinity but, for the second week running, they were still bettered by Catalans Dragons.

Wakefield Trinity debutant Innes Senior (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)
Wakefield Trinity debutant Innes Senior (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

In fairness, Chris Chester’s side were unrecognisable to the one that lost 58-0 to the French club in Super League last Saturday.

Despite being without a raft of injured players and the suspended England centre Reece Lyne, they were competitive for the majoirty of this Challenge Cup sixth round tie in Huddersfield only to fall away after Jay Pitts’ unnecessary sin-binning in the 55th minute.

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At that point, Trinity - who gave a debut to on-loan Huddersfield Giants winger Innes Senior - trailed just 20-12 with the former Leeds Rhinos second-row having scored both their tries to keep in the hunt of a quarter-final place against Salford Red Devils.

Wakefield Trinity's Bill Tupou on the charge. (PIC: JONATHAN GAWTHORPE)

But then Pitts took offence to something Michael McIlorum did in the tackle, throwing punches with the ex-England hooker as tempers flared and all players became involved.

Pitts was actually walking off with blood gaping from a head wound when he was called back to be given a yellow card by referee Chris Kendall.

McIlorum was sin-binned, too, but the 2018 Cup winners settled better thereafter, Ben Garcia exposing some weak goalline defence in the subsequent set to further their lead.

Papuan centre David Mead completed his hat-trick and Matt Whitley crossed from another pinpoint Josh Drinkwater kick while both sides were still down to 12 men.

There was no reprieve for Wakefield as they fell 36-12 behind although -in another positive sign - they did finish strongly with late tries from Tini Arona and Jacob Miller, Ryan Hampshire improving both.

Essentially, ex-Hull KR scrum-half Drinkwater proved the difference; he was in superb form for Catalans, creating four tries with his boot.

The first came as early as the sixth minute when he set up Mead’s first after Bill Tupou had been charged back behind his own goalline.

By the time, Fouad Yaha gathered another one of his delicate chips to score in the 23rd minute, James Maloney converting, not only did it see Catalans go 12-0 up but also saw them score an 110th unanswered point.

Having come from 14-0 down to defeat Castleford Tigers 40-14 and then vanquished Wakefield last week, you feared what further damage they could do even though they were far from their best here.

Still, Trinity finally ended that remarkable record by scoring a fittingly wonderful try in the 31st minute.

Miller made the scything break from inside his own half to ease clear and, though Israel Folau tracked back to haul down the supporting Max Jowitt, his scored at the next play.

With Catalans still at sixes and sevens, Hampshire spotted space to slide in a kick for Pitts to race onto, Hampshire improving.

At 12-6, and having clearly competed far harder than last week, there was no reason why to think Chester’s side could not make further inroads.

However, maddeningly, they shot themselves in the foot once more at the restart.

Jordy Crowther spilled on his own 20m line and then his side quickly gave away a penalty for Maloney to add the two points.

Moreover, they conceded again in the next set as the French side made ground too comfortably to put Drinkwater into position for another well-placed chip, Mead rising high to collect for his second try.

Maloney’s conversion saw his side 20-6 ahead and Trinity were glad to see the break to avoid any further damage.

They returned in the second period, though, with far more urgency and steeliness, showing patience as they applied plenty of pressure early on.

They were rewarded with Pitts’ second try as he once more latched onto a Hampshire grubber to cross in the 46th minute, Hampshire converting.

But then came that blow-up and it was Catalans who reacted better to being reduced to 12 men.

Catalans Dragons: Morgue; Davies, Folau, Mead, Yaha; Maloney, Drinkwater; Casty, McIllorum, Maria, Whitley, J Tomkins, Garcia. Substitutes: Jullien, Goudemand, Baitieri, Kasiano.

Wakefield Trinity: Walker; Jowitt, Croft, Tupou, Senior; Miller, Hampshire; Fifita, K Wood, Arona, Pitts, Ashirst, Westerman. Substitutes: Crowther, Tanginoa, Navarette, Kopczak.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)

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Thank you

James Mitchinson