Richard Agar described his side’s performance as “workmanlike” as Wakefield Trinity Wildcats beat Widnes Vikings 24-14 at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium on Monday night.
Wildcats were far from their best against Denis Betts’s men in a scrappy game but the two crucial points edged them to within a point of the Super League play-offs.
Agar admitted his men will have to play better if they are to reach the top-eight, especially in forthcoming back-to-back matches against champions Leeds Rhinos, but was pleased to see his side scrap out the victory.
“We had to work hard and I did think we showed the attitude and the desire to work. What I didn’t think we did was play great,” he said.
“I thought we were pretty bad with the ball and I thought we gave some really soft penalties away, some dumb penalties, and we made some really dumb decisions and poor last tackle options. I felt if we could have remedied that a little bit we might have found a little bit more energy to attack.
“What I will say about our attack, losing Dean Collis and Paul Sykes early on, you try and cover for most things but we had to shift our line-up about a bit. Paul Aiton played on the edge, Danny Washbrook played at stand-off, Frankie Mariano played in the centre and we had two front-rowers inter-changing around and that’s all we had. We handled that as best as I thought we possibly could in the situation and there’s no doubt it had an effect on us attack-wise.
“Soft errors and soft penalties and poor last tackle options - we know we’ll need to be better than that. I thought Widnes were probably marginally worse than us, but what I will say is we’ve played well this year and lost so we’ve played not so well and we’ve dug a win out and I thought we were workmanlike and tried really hard defensively.”
He continued: “Some of our tries were good tries and we showed little glimpses on attack. But the boys know it’s not been a great performance and we’ll need to be better during the rest of the year, but at the same time we’ve played well and not got wins so it’s probably a good sign for us.”
Agar picked out the “brilliant” Ali Lauitiiti and Frankie Mariano as stand-out performers for Wakefield, with both having to adapt after injuries to Dean Collis and Paul Sykes in the first half.
“He [Lauitiiti] had to push a lot of minutes out and I thought in the first half when we were getting a bit soft I thought Ali was the one who put the punch back in our game,” he said.
“He was probably blunted a little bit with the amount of game time he had to do and Widnes probably targeted him for a little bit of tackling, as you would, but the amount of time he pushed out, and the quality of his stints, he’s still such a handful and I thought he really played like a senior player and took some great responsibility on tonight.
“I thought Mariano was the brightest spot for us tonight. The toughness and the work with which Paul Aiton put in, but I thought Frankie adapted really well. He carried the ball strong, did a good job for us defensively and pulled off a role that is pretty unfamiliar for him. He’s probably played it more in the last six weeks than he has in his career but he did a good job for us tonight.”
Collis went off after opening the scoring inside five minutes with a recurrence of a hamstring injury, while Paul Sykes followed the centre off later in the half with what turned out to be a broken fibula, an injury that could see Wakefield’s no.6 out for some time.
Injuries aside, Wakefield have now won four league matches on the spin and their top-eight fate is in their own hands as they trail St Helens by just a point with a game in-hand.
Although tough back-to-back matches against Leeds await, Agar says Wildcats fans can get excited about the remaining seven matches of the season.
“We can get excited about it now can’t we?” said the ’Cats head coach.
“We’ve worked really hard. We’re confident when we get our ‘A game’ on that we can challenge and beat bigger and better teams. But I think without working extremely hard for each other at the moment, it wasn’t fluent and our attack wasn’t fluent last week - we’ll get that better - we’re in the mix and we can put pressure on the teams above.
“For these last seven rounds we know we’ve got an awful lot to play for. We were a little bit fed up with everyone talking about last year before, but I think we can draw on the experiences and the excitement that that brought to the players, the team and the club when we did it last year.”
Agar also blasted those involved in the crowd trouble late in the match, which saw both sets of fans involved in ugly scenes in the West Stand.
He said: “It’s not often you see it. We’ve all been in the game long enough and experienced from time to time little scenes like that. I can’t comment on the incident because I’m watching the game but we were aware it was going on and I hope the perpetrators are held up there and there’s some action against them.
“The last time we played at home we played London and it was full of kids and families and it was a fantastic day. It’s ugly and it’s not something that any genuine rugby league person wants to see.”