THIS inspiring Wakefield Trinity side truly do not know the meaning of the word ‘defeat.’
They secured a seventh consecutive victory yesterday with a remarkable performance to win at second-placed Salford Red Devils who, in turn, had not lost themselves for seven matches.
Although Mason Caton-Brown’s hat-trick try – fittingly against the club who released him at the end of the season – eventually proved the crucial score in the 76th minute, that only told part of the story.
Exhausted Trinity, who spent the vast majority of this game defending, had already seen a 16-0 lead after 39 minutes totally eroded.
Salford surged back to lead 18-16 in the 53rd minute after tries from Jake Bobby (2) and Craig Kopczak.
The West Yorkshire club – with Keegan Hirst immense in his 250th career appearance and Matty Ashurst and Reece Lyne in towering form – rallied to see outstanding winger Caton-Brown dive in for his second totally against the run of play in the 64th minute.
Again, though, Salford hit back via Lama Tasi who capitalised as Max Jowitt – the young full-back in for Scott Grix – dropped a high kick in the 70th minute for Michael Dobson’s fourth goal to give them a 24-22 advantage.
Most teams would have wilted, unable to raise themselves yet again after a third game in eight days, but not Chris Chester’s side.
Even without Tina Arona and Jacob Miller, two of their most influential players who suffered severe injuries in the win at champions Wigan last Monday, they once more found another gear. Sam Williams sent Jowitt surging away and, though James Batchelor was hauled down by Dobson, Liam Finn held his nerve to supply Caton-Brown in the corner.
Dobson’s short restart sailed into touch and Batchelor – who came in and impressed, just like Chris Annakin who was playing his first Trinity game this season – barged through some feeble defence to seal the win in the final seconds.
These sides will do it all again here a week on Thursday for a place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals and, with this attitude, Wakefield may head into it now as favourites.
They are up to joint-third and – despite making seven changes from Wigan – their goalline defence was superb as they continually fended off Salford.
Lyne, in particular, thrived in his running battle with robust centre Junior Sa’u, the recalled Ashley Gibson was on hand to force a Robert Lui error just as he looked to score, Weller Hauraki was held up over the line and there was some energetic combined cover defence to bundle Bibby into touch, too.
They defended 18 successive tackles at one point and never wavered and built up a 16-0 lead courtesy of some classic counter-attacking play.
Caton-Brown got them off to a great start in the sixth minute.
Gareth O’Brien, the threatening Red Devils full-back, looked to have sneaked through but his pass was collected by Gibson who set his winger on an 80m run untouched the other way.
Finn - captain in the absence of Danny Kirmond - slotted the first of his five goals but his side barely had any decent attacking ball before scoring their second try in the 23rd minute.
It was another breakaway, this time Williams intercepting Dobson’s pass and finding Lyne who also raced 80m himself to leave Salford stunned.
The rope-a-dope tactics continued ahead of their third try in the 33rd minute.
Salford self-imploded again, this time Kris Welham flinging the ball back infield 30m from his own line as Caton-Brown threatened to dispatch him into touch.
Gibson was on hand, again, to collect and, later in the set, an intricate passing move involving Williams and Jowitt saw Lyne in for his second.
Remarkably, it was the first time Chester’s side had had the ball in their hands in Salford’s 20 the whole half.
Finn improved for 16-0 but they missed two glorious opportunities to add a killer blow just before the break when, crucially, both Kyle Wood and Jowitt spilled when chances were there.
Instead, Salford got off the mark with just 60 seconds of the half remaining, Bibby going over for his first off Lui’s long ball as Trinity finally broke. Dobson slotted the touchline conversion and it gave his side a vital lift heading into the break.
It was always likely those Herculean first-half endeavours would come back to hurt Trinity and so it proved as Salford re-emerged with far more bite and cutting edge to work their way into a lead. However, defiant Wakefield simply would not acquiesce and their mental fortitude came to the fore yet again.
Salford Red Devils: O’Brien; Evalds, Welham, Sa’u, Bibby; Lui, Dobson; Tasi, Tomkins, Hasson, Murdoch-Masila, Hauraki, Krasniqi. Substitutes: Brining, Kopczak, Carney, Griffin.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt; Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Gibson, Caton-Brown; Williams, Finn; England, Wood, Hirst, Ashurst, Batchelor, Sio. Substitutes: Arundel, Fifita, Huby, Annakin.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).