FORMER Leeds Rhinos forward Ian Kirke marked his long-awaited debut for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in unusual style by scoring two tries to help secure the club’s first victory in nine games.
Five-time Grand Final winner Kirke, 33, only managed a dozen tries in nine years at Headingley.
But he grabbed a late brace in the Challenge Cup fifth round tie last night after playing his first competitive Trinity game following an injury in the Boxing Day friendly at Leeds.
The victory against Championship side Halifax was a welcome relief for Wakefield boss James Webster whose struggling side had endured a record-equalling 80-0 Super League defeat at Warrington a week ago.
But it was not until Craig Hall, the full-back, shimmied through in the 62nd minute to make it 28-16 that suffering Trinity fans could truly settle.
Webster said: “Everyone’s aim is getting through in the cup for Monday’s draw and we’ve been good enough to do that.
“We’ve made some strides tonight but I thought Halifax were outstanding.
“They competed well and it was no fluke they played like that. They are a good team with a heap of Super League players and some others they didn’t even pick.
“We understand we’ve still got some more strides to make but we’re really looking forward to making those.
“I’m pleased for the players. Their intensity this week improved, the mindset was we’re going to defend harder and they made a dramatic improvement on last Saturday. Hopefully, it will help us kick on in Super League.
“And Kirkey did a good job for us, scoring those two tries and getting through some minutes that will help us.”
Trinity, who also saw fit-again Jon Molloy play his first game of the year, led 18-10 at the interval in a half where Halifax remained strong, committed and dangerous.
Winger Richard Owen got the first of his own double with a strong finish in the 11th minute, but Jacob Miller dropped Scott Murrell’s hanging kick soon after for James Saltonstall to reply, Murrell converting for the lead.
Hall broke Rikki Sheriffe’s tackle on 20 minutes to provide Owen’s second, Hall kicking the first of his six goals, only for some fine footwork from Ben Heaton seeing the Halifax centre elude Joe Arundel for another visiting try to level.
Trinity nudged in front when Daniel Smith powered, Hall improving and then adding a penalty on the hooter.
When Chris Riley dropped Murrell’s latest hoisted kick, ex-Wakefield winger Gareth Potts scrambled in for Murrell to make it 18-14 but they erred from the re-start and Riley quickly atoned for his mistake to ease Wakefield nerves.
Hall then came up with his classy try before his brilliant run down the middle saw Danny Washbrook score. Then came Kirke’s rare double from close range to seal the victory.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Hall; Owen, Ryan, Arundel, Riley; Miller, T Smith; Scruton, McShane, Simon, Lauitiiti, Kirmond, Washbrook. Substitutes: D Smith, Molloy, Kirke, Trout.
Halifax: Saltonstall: Potts, Heaton, Sheriffe, Brown; Taylor, Murrell; Cahalane, Kaye, Ambler, Divorty, Manning, Moore. Substitutes: Tangata, Bracek, Spencer, Maneely.
Referee: Joe Cobb (Manchester)