Richard Agar blasted the performance of his forward pack after Wakefield Wildcats opened their Super League XVIII season with a 40-6 defeat at Bradford Bulls on Sunday.
Wildcats were out-played and out-fought from start to finish at the Provident Stadium and Agar labelled his side’s contact “disgraceful” as a more powerful Bulls pack overpowered their visitors.
“If you’re not in the physical contest things can get a bit messy for you,” he said.
“Plain and simple, our contact in the middle of the field was nowhere near up to scratch, in fact, it was disgraceful. I’ve told them in there, I’m going to lay it firmly at the door of our forwards.
“We weren’t tackling with our shoulders; too many arms, not getting tight enough and not working hard enough in the ruck area. They just marched us downfield and I don’t think they strung too many passes together themselves offensively because they didn’t need to such was their control of the ruck.
“That’s why it was a one-sided game and until you get a grip of that area I don’t think you’ve got much chance.”
Wildcats were without influential half-back Tim Smith for the match but Agar did not use the Australian’s absence as an excuse for a below-par performance.
“I think it was 53 sets to one team, which wouldn’t be too far off a record, and we had 20 odd so I’m not too sure Tim Smith would have conjured up too much on attack playing behind a pack that served that up for him,” he commented.
“I’m not massively worried about our attack. I know we didn’t create an awful lot and we scored off an intercept but our attack will come and we’ll be a good enough team on attack.
“But you’ve got to earn the right to attack and the way we defended in the middle of the field, we didn’t earn that right at all.
“It gets compounded, when you’re on the back foot and you have back-to-back sets your energy saps away and we started to make mistakes and we made more mistakes in the second half. I thought we got a slightly better control of the ruck [in the second half] but nowhere near enough, nowhere near where it needed to be to be in the contest.
Discipline was also a problem for Wakefield, with eleven penalties given away and three players penalised for dissent, as well as the whole team at one point being put on a warning by referee Ben Thaler.
“That was an issue for us,” admitted Agar. “When we were on the back foot and things were going against us that shows you a team that got a little bit rattled about what was going on out there.
“That’s something we need to address but first and foremost we address our contact, I think that’ll take care of a lot of issues for us.”
The Cats boss did reserve praise for Bulls, who gave Francis Cummins his first Super League win as head coach, and Omar Khan a happy start to life as chairman.
“Credit to the other side, they did what they needed to do,” said Agar.
“They beat us in that pack area and got a total dominance of the game in the ruck and that’s why the scoreline was left where it was.”
It was not all doom and gloom, with Agar able to take positives from the performances of Richie Mathers, Peter Fox and Ben Cockayne.
“I thought our outside backs but in particular our wingers and our full-back absolutely tried their hardest to rally the team,” he said.
“I tossed up playing them in the middle of the field they were having such a go!”.