THERE was an unexpected twist to a familiar scenario when Wakefield Trinity faced Warrington Wolves in a game of huge significance at both ends of the Super League table.
When the fixtures were announced last autumn it looked like being a match between one side with Grand Final aspirations and another battling against relegation and so it proved, but not in the expected order.
Trinity’s 26-12 win at Belle Vue on Saturday ended a three-game losing run, left them just one point away from guaranteeing at least fifth place at the end of the regular season and kept them firmly in touch with the top four.
That is a remarkable and unheralded achievement for a club who were 11 points adrift at the bottom in 2015 and lost all their extra fixtures last season after claiming the final place in the Super-8s.
By contrast, Warrington – who were league leaders in 2016 and runners-up in both major finals – slipped to 10th in the table and only a series of freak results could prevent them from dropping into the middle-eights Qualifiers and a fight against relegation.
Warrington took an early 6-2 lead through Brad Dwyer’s try and a conversion from Stefan Ratchford, but were second-best for most of a dour encounter.
Kyle Wood had a fine game for Wakefield and set up their first try by slipping an offload to Bill Tupou, who was impressive in the left-centre.
Tupou also forced Warrington’s new signing, Peta Hiku, to lose possession over the line when he looked certain to score later in the first half.
Ben Jones-Bishop would have added to Wakefield’s lead but for a woeful pass from Reece Lyne, but did get over the line just before the interval off Sam Williams’ cut-out ball.
With Liam Finn kicking two conversions and a penalty, Wakefield led 14-6 and they extended that advantage when Wood dummied over from close range.
Chris Hill pulled a try back, improved by Ratchford, after Trinity’s Keegan Hirst had been sin-binned for dangerous contact on Daryl Clark.
Wakefield were later placed on two separate team warnings, 12 minutes apart, in a game littered with 23 penalties, 12 of them to the visitors.
But Trinity never looked like letting the game slip and they made the points safe six minutes from time through a try by Mason Caton-Brown and Finn’s third conversion.
Coach Chris Chester described it as a “massive” win for Wakefield.
He said: “It was a really good reaction from the last couple of weeks when we’ve not been particularly good.
“I thought we were a little bit ugly at times, but sometimes you win ugly and I am pleased for the players who worked hard all week. It was nice to get a result at home because it’s been a few games since we did that.
“Defensively, we were pretty good and it was a really important win because it keeps us in touch with the top-four.”
“I’m pleased for the boss as well.
“He’s invested a lot of money into the club over the last three or four years and it would be nice to get into the top four for Michael (Carter).
“It’s about trying to build momentum going into the Super 8s and we’ll take a lot of confidence out of today’s performance.
There was a long stoppage in the second half for treatment to Warrington’s 18-year-old full-back Will Dagger, who is from Pontefract.
Coach Tony Smith confirmed he suffered a neck injury and was checked over in hospital, but is expected to be “okay”.
Wakefield Trinity: Grix, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Tupou, Caton-Brown, Williams, Finn, Walker, Wood, Huby, Ashurst, Hadley, Arona. Subs Arundel, Annakin, Hirst, England.
Warrington Wolves: Dagger, Johnson, Hiku, Atkins, Penny, Ratchford, Gidley, Hill, Dwyer, Cooper, Jullien, Hughes, Philbin. Subs Clark, Sims, Savelio, Wilde.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).