FORMER man of Steel Danny Brough scored 10 points in a man-of-the-match performance on his 500th career appearance to help Wakefield Trinity get off the mark for the season last night.
Brough booted three conversions and two penalties in a hard-fought, if at times scrappy win over Catalans Dragons at Belle Vue. The half-back was Super League’s top player six years ago when at Huddersfield Giants and remains hugely influential, even at 36.
His kicking game caused Catalans problems all evening and created an important try just before half-time in a spell when Trinity went from two points behind to 10 ahead.
It was a deserved win for Trinity who, despite missing some key forwards, muscled up against a big Catalans pack and defended their line with real grit and determination.
Full-back Ryan Hampshire also had a good game for Trinity and was denied a try after 10 minutes when Brough’s pass sent him dashing towards the line, but referee Chris Kendall – harshly – pulled him back for an obstruction.
Brough was, typically, at the forefront of Wakefield’s best moments in an error-ridden opening to the game, initially forcing a scrum 10m out after a pinpoint kick and then reacting quickly to tackle Lewis Tierney into touch when the former Wigan winger seemed to have found space on Dragons’ left.
The opening try, when it came on 16 minutes, was special. There are few better or more exciting finishers in Super League than Wakefield’s left-wing Tom Johnstone. It looked like he had nowhere to go when he received the ball from Hampshire, who skipped past some ineffective tackling close to the line.
The defence got across and referee Chris Kendall felt Johnstone had been tackled into touch before getting the ball down, but video assistant Robert Hicks ruled otherwise.
Brough landed a touchline conversion, but the lead was shortlived. Just three minutes later Wakefield’s defence got in each other’s way allowing David Mead to burst clear and Samisoni Langi was in support to score a try that Sam Tomkins converted.
Sam Tomkins, Catalans’ star signing from Wigan, edged the visitors ahead with a penalty goal 11 minutes before the interval. It came moments after he had kept Reece Lyne out with a last-gap tackle then Matty Ashurst spilled Johnstone’s pass just short.
Taking the two was the wrong option as it turned out. Brough’s restart was spilled into touch by Catalans’ Tony Gigot and Wakefield regained the lead in the set from the scrum when David Fifita crashed over from Jacob Miller’s pass, the stand-off also impressing for Trinity, and Brough added the extras.
Fifita will be out of contract at the end of the season and is already being linked with rival clubs. His powerful finish proved why – and why Wakefield are keen to keep him.
With forwards Craig Huby, Pauli Pauli, Tyler Randell and Danny Kirmond all injured, and two fewer interchanges allowed this year, Fifita had to step up and did so, playing the first 45 minutes and then returning for the final 10.
Brough extended the lead with a penalty after a high tackle on Kyle Wood and then he kicked behind the defence and James Batchelor read it perfectly to score the hosts’ third converted try. Tomkins was placed on report for colliding with referee Kendall as he tried to get across.
Keegan Hirst made his first appearance of the season when he came off the bench to replace Fifita, but he was back on it within a couple of minutes, sin-binned for a high tackle on Jason Baitieri.
This was Wakefield’s third yellow card of the season, the previous two being shown to Brough for dissent. By now they are learning how to play with 12 men and managed the situation well, but conceded seconds after Hirst’s return when Langi forced his way over the top of Bill Tupou and Johnson from close-range, though the missed conversion left Wakefield two scores clear.
Brough added his second penalty – for Wakefield’s only points after the break – with 15 minutes left after Miller was fouled by Tomkins and Catalans were reduced to 12 when Baitieri was sin-binned for a foul on Tinirau Arona soon afterwards. Catalans’ poor discipline in the second half, when they conceded five successive penalties, aided Trinity’s cause.
Arona could have sealed the win three minutes later, but spilled Miller’s pass just short and was then yellow carded for delaying the restart.
Mead was stretchered off in the closing minutes after being hurt in a tackle and Trinity held on with no alarms.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Tupou, Johnstone, Miller, Brough, Fifita, Wood, England, Batchelor, Ashurst, Arona. Substitutes: Horo, King, Kopczak, Hirst.
Catalans Dragons: Tomkins, Mead, Langi, Wiliame, Tierney, Gigot, Smith, Simon, McIlorum, Moa, Edwards, Whitley, Casty. Substitutes: Garcia, Goudemand, Maria, Baitieri.
Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).