WAKEFIELD TRINITY head coach Chris Chester might not know whether to laugh or cry.
He witnessed his side produce a truly outstanding win over champions Wigan Warriors last night including some thrilling tries.
But the impressive victory came at a heavy cost with luckless Trinity losing four more key players to injury before the start of the hectic Easter period.
It was testimony to Wakefield’s spirit and character that, with no fit players left on the bench for the final 12 minutes, they still managed to retain such shape and composure.
Prop Anthony England (knee) and England centre Reece Lyne (knee) were both helped off in the first half before captain Jacob Miller (ankle) joined them in the 47th minute and, lastly, hooker Kyle Wood (ankle).
Considering they were already without sidelined Dream Team duo Bill Tupou and Tom Johnstone, it could go down as one of the best victories of Chester’s reign in his 100th game in charge.
Granted, Wigan – who have lost seven of their 10 games so far and saw Zak Hardaker pull out late on for family reasons – were missing nine players to injury or suspension themselves but this was still some effort by Trinity.
Dave Fifita, the giant Australian prop, deserves real praise after producing another quality performance but, this time, doing so for the entire 80 minutes. He had no real choice.
Wigan winger Joe Burgess finished with a hat-trick, the third he has scored against Wakefield, but it was not enough to deny Trinity the victory that sees them move joint-third with Castleford Tigers who they visit on Thursday.
Yet they had been 4-0 down after 36 minutes of a fairly nondescript first half.
In a flash, though, they scored three tries in just four minutes to go in 16-4 ahead; it was the bedrock of the victory, a brilliant patch of football from Chester’s side, with bemused Wigan only touching the ball to re-start the game.
Craig Kopczak’s opener was standard enough, the prop charging over from a penalty tap 10m out in front of the visitors’ posts.
But then came two tries of true beauty.
First, Joe Arundel rounded off a stunning move near halfway where Danny Brough switched play for Miller to slip a no-look pass back inside again to Ryan Hampshire, the former Wigan full-back surging through to provide the final pass for his centre.
It was a training ground setpiece executed to perfection.
However, it would soon be bettered; Fifita, the cult-favourite Trinity prop who is having the best season of his career, took the first carry of the next set and battered his way through Wigan defenders up the left touchline, of all places.
It seemed no one would stop him but, as they finally closed in, and with the hooter sounding, Fifita was able to flick a pass back inside to Max Jowitt, the winger better equipped to sprint the remaining 50m.
Brough converted two of the three scores and stunned Wigan were left shaking their heads walking down the tunnel, all their hard endeavour undone in a clinical burst.
The interval break did not help them re-set, mind; England stand-off George Williams failed to collect the kick-off handing Trinity another chance to strike.
With barely 90 seconds on the clock they did just that, Ben Jones-Bishop benefiting after another fine pass from Brough and Justin Horo, the second-row who filled in admirably at centre for Lyne.
Almost as remarkable as the scoring pattern – essentially a fourth try in just six minutes for Chester’s side – was the fact it was a first score of the season at the tenth attempt for Jones-Bishop, the usually prolific wideman.
Brough converted and, after Miller had trudged off with his injury, added a penalty.
Wigan threatened a comeback when Williams dummied over and they may have fancied their chances knowing Wakefield effectively only had one fit replacement.
But Jones-Bishop grabbed his second from Wood’s grubber just after the hour mark meaning Burgess’ next two were in vain.
Wakefield’s superb second-row Pauli Pauli was sin-binned in the final moments for running in as tempers flared, but it did not sour their night even if those injuries may have done.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire; Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Arundel, Jowitt; Miller, Brough; Fifita, Wood, England, Pauli, Ashurst, Arona. Substitutes: Horo, King, Kopczak, Hirst.
Wigan Warriors: Escare; Davies, Sarginson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Jake Shorrocks; Bullock, Leuluai, Navarette, Isa, Paisley, Smithies. Substitutes: Joe Shorrocks, Powell, Tautai, Partington.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham)