Wakefield Trinity Wildcats moved to within a point of the Super League play-offs thanks to a scrappy 24-14 victory over Widnes Vikings at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium on Monday night.
The match was not one for the purists but tries from Dean Collis, Ali Lauitiiti, Ben Cockayne and Matty Wildie were enough to give Richard Agar’s men their fourth win on the spin to edge closer to the top-eight.
Wildcats’ task was made tougher by losing Collis immediately after his try with a hamstring injury while Paul Sykes was also forced to leave the pitch through injury before half-time, leaving the hosts without key men and with a limited rotation.
Agar’s troops still managed to lead 12-4 at half-time, a scoreline that perhaps flattered the hosts, and touched down twice on the restart to all-but seal their win, with Vikings’ last two tries proving only consolation.
Wakefield will have to show signs of improvement in forthcoming back-to-back matches against champions Leeds Rhinos but will be able to take heart from picking up two crucial points while not playing at the top of their game.
Off the pitch, the match was marred somewhat by ugly scenes in the crowd between both sets of fans in the West Stand towards the end of the game which stewards struggled to contain.
Wildcats drew an encouraging attendance of 7,543 for the match but a minority were involved in a fight in the second half that was eventually brought under control.
The high gate will also be good news for Heart Research UK, with £1 from every ticket going to the charity, while Wildcats also wore a one-off all-red shirt to raise awareness for the charity live on television.
Agar stuck with the same 13 that started in the victory at Hull FC last time out, with Matty Wildie coming in for Kyle Wood, who moved to Huddersfield Giants on-loan last week, on the bench.
Widnes head coach Denis Betts made two changes to the squad that lost out to Leeds Rhinos with Hep Cahill and Grant Gore coming in for Joe Mellor and Steve Pickersgill.
The first half was a largely forgettable one but game started at a fast pace and after Richie Mathers had kicked a dangerous Widnes grubber kick dead the hosts marched down the other end to open the scoring four minutes in.
Full-back Mathers this time provided the grubber for centre Collis to touchdown for his 12th try of the season. Lee Smith added the conversion.
The joy for Collis was short-lived as he limped off with a suspected hamstring injury and Vikings hit back five minutes later. Stand-off Kevin Brown provided a pin-point pass out wide for Patrick Ah Van to ease over. Jack Owens missed the kick.
It lifted the Vikings and Ah Van should have collected a Rhys Hanbury pass minutes later to grab what would have been his second try of the match, only to spill the ball out of play and let Wakefield off the hook.
Neither side were managing to grab a hold of what was turning into a scrappy game midway through the first half as errors and penalties started to take their toll.
One of those errors almost allowed Widnes in as Oliver Wilkes spilled the ball in a Wakefield attack and allowed Hep Cahill to breakaway only for skipper Danny Kirmond to race back and thwart the Vikings’ loose forward.
Wakefield were forced to shuffle their pack when Paul Sykes followed Dean Collis on to the bench with an injury.
But the hosts quickly turned defence into attack and from their next set they extended their lead. Danny Craven slipped in the visitors’ defensive line and Lauitiiti took full advantage to burst through the gap and score.
Wildcats came close to scoring again minutes before the half-time hooter but Ben Cockayne spilled the ball forward just yards short of the line when looking for the supporting Mariano.
Widnes touched down two minutes after the restart through Hanbury after Brown sent a high bomb forward but the video referee awarded a penalty to Wakefield after Ah Van crashed into Mathers in an attempt to catch the ball.
It was Wildcats who opened the scoring after the break and it came from a Vikings error. Macgraff Leuluai spilled the ball and Cockayne scooped it up, played advantage and produced a sublime off load for Mariano to score under the posts and give Lee Smith a comfortable conversion.
It got better for Wildcats eight minutes later when the in-form Mariano got away from the Vikings defence and fed Cockayne, who powered forward and slipped Wildie in for Wakefield’s fourth try of the match.
Vikings were not done and just before the hour mark Gareth Hock gave the visitors a glimmer of hope with their second try. Brown was the creator and the second row eased over. Owens again failed with the conversion.
Widnes looked to be in again when Brown put Cahill away but Mathers produced a superb tackle near the line to see the loose forward spill the ball and hand possession back to Wildcats.
The match fizzled out in the closing stages but there was still time for Vikings to grab another consolation with four minutes to go when Hanbury took a Grant Gore pass to go in at the corner and Owens kicked his first successful conversion.
Kirmond hobbled off for Wakefield late on and Wildcats will be hoping their on-song skipper has not picked up a serious injury.
Wildcats: Mathers, Fox, Collis, L Smith, Cockayne, Sykes, T Smith, Poore, Aiton, Amor, Mariano, Kirmond, Washbrook. Subs: Lauitiiti, Wilkes, Wildie, Raleigh.
Vikings: Hanbury, Owens, Phelps, Marsh, Ah Van, Brown, Craven, O’Carroll, Clarke, Gerrard, Hock, Allen, Cahill. Subs: Leuluai, Joseph, Kavanagh, Gore.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.