The unpredictable nature of both Wakefield Trinity and St Helens throughout 2023 meant that today’s meeting at the Be Well Support Stadium was a bit of a lottery for those trying to make a prediction about the outcome.
A win by more than ten points for the home side would see them off the bottom of the table and above the Castleford Tigers in the scramble to avoid relegation, while a seventy-five-point win for Saints (not beyond the realms of possibility) would move the visitors into top spot in the league, quashing all thoughts of their very poor start to the season.
Saints were the bookies favourites with Wakefield given a sixteen-point start on the handicap coupon, but it would be a brave person who would write off a Trinity side still frantically scrambling to maintain their Super League status.
It was all too easy for Saints as they opened the scoring after ninety seconds as Konrad Hurrell bust a tackle before a pass to Jonny Lomax allowed the half-back to spring twenty metres to score. Mark Percival kicked a simple conversion, the visitors off and running.
Wakefield struck back almost immediately when on five minutes Matty Ashurst made the most of a Romain Franco break after wrongfooting Hurrell to take the pass and dive in by the uprights. Will Dagger added the conversion, and the sides were level.
A sensational Tommy Makinson try, taking a fabulous Jack Welsby pass, as he went airborne from a few metres out to dive over the line and ground. Percival hit the upright with his conversion attempt the Saints lead was ten points.
Wakefield went on the offensive but were kept at way by a robust Saints defence.
On thirty-five James Roby was on hand to take a bouncing ball which Franco had failed to collect to step past the defenders to score. Percival added the conversion for 16-6 but Saints had more to offer before the interval.
Fast hands and offloads in a rolling move downfield saw Percival feed Jon Bennison for the winger to cross. Percival was unable to convert from the touchline but the Saints too a fourteen point lead into the interval.
The half time speech worked well for Trinity when a Jack Croft catch and pass put Lee Kershaw free down the wing to scamper down the wing and score in the corner. Mason Lino was nowhere near the posts with the conversion attempt.
After getting themselves back in the game a Franco error let Saints back in when Makinson sprinted for the line for a simple walk-in try. Percival added the conversion for 26-10, Saints now back in control.
Another error, another try. This time it was Lewis Dodd who benefitted from a Luke Gale error as he couldn´t take a pass. Percival bust a tackle before finding Bennison to go down the wing and pass inside to Dodd to score. Percival added the conversion, the game beyond Wakefield.
As the clock ran down, a superb catch and pass from Jack Croft made the try for Kershaw to go in for his second of the afternoon. Lino added the conversion for 16-32.
Saints are level on points with Wigan and Catalans in the race for the minor premiership, a competition which looks like it may go down to the wire. But this was Trinity’s slim opportunity to get back level on points with the Castleford Tigers at the bottom, but the loss now means that they have to win at least one of their remaining three games (Catalans (H), Leigh (A) and Hull KR (H)), while hoping that the Tigers lose their remaining three games against Hull FC (H), Wigan (A) and Leeds (A). One more win for the Tigers will almost certainly be enough to retain their status, the task ahead now looking very ominous for Trinity.
Wakefield Trinity: Dagger (G), Senior, Franco, Croft (T), Kershaw, Lino, Gale, Bowden, Hood, Atoni, Ashurst (T), Griffin, Pitts. Subs: Kay, Fifita, Battye, Eseh. 18th Man: Bowes.
St Helens: Welsby, Makinson (2T), Hurrell, Percival (4G), Bennison (T), Lomax (T), Dodd (T), Lees, Roby (T), Delaney, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Bell. Subs: McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Norman, Royle, Mbye. 18th Man: Davies.
Full-Time: 16-32 .
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-6, 6-10, 6-14, 6-16, 6-20 : HT: 10-20, 10-24, 10-26, 10-30, 10-32, 14-32, 16-32:FT.
Lead Exchanges: St Helens – Square – St Helens.
Referee: Marcus Griffiths.