IT WAS only right, after all the effort supporters and everyone at the club put in to get this game on, that Wakefield Trinity produced such a fitting performance.
Volunteers shovelled snow and cleared the ground to ensure yesterday’s match went ahead and were then rewarded with a gutsy performance that led to the West Yorkshire club’s best-ever start since the end of World War II.
Resilient Wakefield, with some truly remarkable defence at times, were simply too good for Huddersfield Giants who were made to pay for some early profligacy and a costly yellow-card for hooker Kruise Leeming.
It is the first time Trinity have won all four opening top-four games since 1945 and head coach Chris Chester was rightly enthused.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the performance and defensively I thought we were outstanding,” he said.
“We never looked in any trouble, certainly in the second half.
“We made some changes and it makes my job difficult as the guys who came in did a fantastic job.
“I was really pleased for Kirmo (captain Danny Kirmond) who has had to wait for a chance and he did a great job keeping Danny Brough quiet.
“I’ve just spoken about how proud we are to be the first Wakefield team to win the opening four Super League games – we set a target of eight points – but now we want to go make it five from five at Wigan.
“We have nothing to fear if we play with that desire and attitude.”
Behind such an industrious and selfless pack, including the excellent Tinirau Arona, Keegan Hirst and Craig Huby, half-back Liam Finn was able to dictate.
The veteran Ireland captain tormented Huddersfield with his kicking, whether forcing drop-outs or chipping for winger Ben Jones-Bishop’s second try, and his all-round game management was superb.
Indeed, it was a match meant for the measured 34-year-old who is so clever when it comes to mastering such conditions. And how delightful to see the rarely-seen orange ball, too.
It is a sign of how well Chester’s side are performing,though, and the depth of his squad, that they produced this win despite resting a raft of regulars including England hopeful Tom Johnstone, Reece Lyne and Justin Horo.
They deserved victory if anything for the remarkable effort they put in inside the opening 10 minutes alone.
Huddersfield applied relentless pressure with Brough – before Finn even got going – causing early chaos with his own kicking.
Trinity full-back Scott Grix dropped his former team-mate’s first spiralling downfield kick of the afternoon and, thereafter, the hosts barely saw the ball.
Brough, along with Jordan Rankin, went on to force three goalline drop-outs in quick succession and it seemed inevitable Chester’s side must eventually wilt.
However, with a combination of their fierce defence and some poor execution from the visitors, determined Wakefield held out; you sensed already it was a major battle won that could prove the bedrock for victory.
Moreover, when Trinity finally forced some pressure of their own and Finn’s astute kick gave them possession of a first drop-out, crucially they made it pay.
It was a long floated pass from Grix, the Ireland vice-captain who left Huddersfield at the end of 2016, that saw Jones-Bishop dive in for his first try of the campaign in the 23rd minute.
With the promptings of Finn and Jacob Miller, his side had worked their way into the contest, Arona being held up by Adam O’Brien and Jake Mamo as he charged close.
Granted, Huddersfield had more pressure on Wakefield’s line after Jones-Bishop’s try but, again, they scrambled well to deny them, Aaron Murphy bundled into touch.
Trinity should have had another try before the break when Craig Huby was tripped chasing another dinked Finn grubber. However, no official spotted the offence.
Instead, Lee Gaskell did finally break them at the other end in the 35th minute to leave the game finely-balanced 6-4 at the break.
However, Rick Stone’s side, with Tom Symonds making his comeback after 11 months out, committed rugby league suicide at the start of the second period, conceding a glut of straight penalties in the opening 10 minutes.
Having seen Finn convert two of them, they were put on a team warning – only for the offside Leeming to then concede a sixth consecutive penalty and duly get sin-binned.
The seventh penalty in a row led to Finn chipping to the corner when Jones-Bishop added his second try in the 55th minute, Finn adding his second touchline conversion.
Still, trailing 16-4, Huddersfield had a perfect chance to respond just before the hour mark but Grix made a crucial intervention at marker, forcing Ryan Hinchcliffe to lose possession as the Australian came out of dummy-half.
Thereafter, there was a couple more chances but Ukuma Ta’ai fumbled under pressure from David Fifita and Bill Tupou scrambled to deny Gaskell.
Instead, after Gaskell spilled, Mason Caton-Brown – who came in for Johnstone – hacked on to complete the win in the 80th minute.
Wakefield Trinity: Grix; Jones-Bishop, Arundel, Tupou, Caton-Brown; Miller, Finn; Fifita, Wood, England, Kirmond, Ashurst, Arona. Substitutes: Hampshire, Huby, Pauli, Hirst.
Huddersfield Giants: Mamo; McGillvary, Gaskell, Turner, Murphy; Rankin, Brough; Clough, O’Brien, Ta’ai, Roberts, Ferguson, Hinchcliffe. Substitutes: Leeming, Ikahihifo, Smith, Symonds.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven)