WAKEFIELD TRINITY broke their five-game losing run in unexpected, but deserved, fashion yesterday by stunning Betfred Super League leaders St Helens.
Trinity led 22-6 midway through the first half, but were hanging on for much of the second as Saints threw everything at them.
Liam Finn’s late penalty was Wakefield’s only score after the 23rd minute, but coach Chris Chester felt his side were full value for their victory.
“I think I’ve aged about 10 years in that last five minutes,” he reflected afterwards.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the group; they’ve been there or thereabouts in the last five weeks and we’ve been a bit unlucky, but it’s nice to be on the right side of a close game.
“I’m delighted to get that monkey off our backs. It’s a massive win for everyone involved with the club.”
It seemed ominous when Saints scored in the first set of the game, Mark Percival crossing from Ben Barba’s pass and Danny Richardson converting from wide out.
But Trinity came up with a rapid response and built what proved to be a match-winning lead during a 17-minute spell when their finishing was utterly ruthless.
Ben Jones-Bishop got on the end of quick passing by Scott Grix and Liam Finn to dive over at the corner. Finn’s touchline conversion levelled the scores after six minutes and Trinity were ahead seven later.
Saints’ Matty Smith made a break and knocked on, Jones-Bishop kicked ahead on the free play and was taken out by Zeb Taia and from the penalty Finn and Jacob Miller combined to create the opening for Reece Lyne.
The third try was special. Bill Tupou’s tackle to win possession began it, and then a lovely dummy and some nice footwork took Justin Horo past the final defender for a superb touchdown, from Tyler Randell’s pass.
Finn’s third goal made it 18-6 and Trinity went further in front of 23 minutes when Tupou scooped up a loose ball and powered over through some weak tackling.
There was no goal and Trinity only managed two more points in the game, but they had built a big enough lead. Saints struck straight back through Tommy Makinson and then Percival scored his second on the stroke of half-time, cutting Wakefield’s lead to 22-14.
Trinity had been ahead at the break in four of their five defeats and their nerves were jangling when Luke Douglas crashed on to Theo Fages’ pass to go over for a try which Richardson improved early in the second half.
Trinity missed a golden opportunity just before the hour when the outstanding Tupou sent Horo storming clear with Matty Ashurst in support on his inside, but he opted to go for the line himself and was tackled by Ryan Morgan.
With nine minutes left Tupou snatched the ball from Morgan to prevent a Saints try and broke 60 metres upfield.
He didn’t have the legs to go all the way, but a high shot by Luke Thompson on Keegan Hirst allowed Finn to extend the lead to four points.
Saints almost snatched it two minutes later when Barba broke clear and passed to half-back Jonny Lomax, who was brought down by a high tackle from Randell.
The hooker was sin-binned, but Percival followed him – for foul language to a touch judge - soon afterwards and Wakefield deservedly held on.
The result justified Chester’s decision to drop three of his first-choice players.
He said: “We made some changes and didn’t pick Tom Johnstone, Ryan Hampshire or Pauli Pauli.
“They know why they weren’t selected.
“It sends clear message to the rest of the group that it doesn’t matter who you are - if you’re not playing well, you will find yourself sat on the sidelines with me.”
Wakefield Trinity: Grix, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Arundel, Tupou, Miller, Finn, Huby, Randell, Hirst, Ashurst, Kirmond, Horo. Subs Wood, England, Arona, Baldwinson.
St Helens: Barba, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Richardson, Amor, Smith, Thompson, Peyroux, Taia, Wilkin. Subs Fages, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles.
Referee: G Hewer (Whitehaven).