Head coach Richard Agar was delighted to see his Wakefield Trinity Wildcats side learn their lessons from a four-game losing streak as they kept their Super League play-off hopes alive with a comprehensive 46-10 victory at Salford City Reds on Monday night.
Agar labelled the match as a ‘must win’ for his troops if they were to keep their top-eight aspirations alive and they did not let him down with an eight-try success that moved Wakefield up to tenth in the table and to within four points of the play-offs with a game in hand.
The Wildcats boss had been scathing of his side’s recent below-par performances, especially in defeats against Hull KR and Castleford Tigers respectively, but was pleased to see his men kick on from their more encouraging showing, despite defeat, against leaders Wigan Warriors in the previous round.
“I’m really happy,” he said post-match. “We said coming into it that we felt it was one we couldn’t let slip and a must win game so I was pleased to get the win.
“I felt we started a little bit slow and it took us 10 to 15 minutes to get into it but I thought the first try had a good effect on us, it just calmed our nerves a little bit and I thought overall we really won the physical contest.
“Our boys in the first half, Justin Poore, Kyle Amor in particular off the bench, Danny Kirmond and then Paul Aiton on the back of it, it’s a simple game sometimes and I thought they carried the ball really strongly into the Salford defensive line and it gave us enough of a platform.
“We probably learned a few lessons over the last few weeks. Our kicking game didn’t cause them heaps of problems but just having that ability to turn them around and get the ball behind them and set our defensive line again. It left us doing what we’ve wanted to do for a number of weeks and have a bit more energy in our tanks when we needed it.”
Wildcats were undoubtedly boosted by the return of a number of key figures from injury, not least half-back pairing Tim Smith and Paul Sykes.
“Those half-backs playing well for us is obviously vitally important,” Agar commented.
“We have missed Paul Sykes while he’s been out. His combination with Timmy [Smith], they understand each other’s roles great. He has got that ability to kick the ball and kick it long and high.
“I thought Timmy run into a bit of confidence as the game wore on. I don’t think he started great, he probably wasn’t playing straight enough those first few sets but once we got a bit of daylight between the sides the confidence really returned to his play and one of the tries that he set up in the second half showed pure class.”
Agar also paid tribute to his ‘back-three’ of full-back Richard Mathers, making his 250th career appearance, and wingers Ben Cockayne and Peter Fox. All three managed to get on the scoresheet and the Wildcats boss says their form is crucial to his side’s overall play.
“He [Mathers] carried the ball really strongly out of the back field and we’re talking about things that make us a good team - our back three are always very prominent when we’re going well.” he said.
“I thought Foxy caught some terrific high kicks and both him and Benny, along with Rich, returned the ball simple but very effectively for us. They showed a lot of energy and really strong carries coming out of back field so overall we had a lot of contributions from every different unit. We didn’t dress it up too much but played simple and effective, won the physical battle and did a lot of the little things right.”
The result keeps Wakefield within striking distance of the top-eight but Agar is not getting carried away by what was his side’s biggest league win of the season so far.
“We can only look to next week,” he said. “We’re out of it [play-offs] at the moment and I think it’s important to look week-by-week and not start looking at games we can pick off.
“Our form hasn’t been good enough over the last month, plain and simple. Performances against Hull KR and Castleford in particular, there’s no point talking about top-eight if we’re going to turn out those sort of displays.
“We did think we saw a better turnaround, albeit in defeat, last week against Wigan. We carried some positivity into this week and into this game. You don’t need me to tell them [the players] that a game like this, if we don’t pick this up - and I suppose the same can apply for next week when we’ve got London - if we can’t negotiate them we’re not looking at top eight we’re looking at bottom four.
“To do it [win] and do it convincingly, I’m sure has given us some confidence and hopefully we can carry that momentum into our next game and build up from there and try and build a bit of a run and some form into these next nine games.”
Agar confirmed Poore had to have an injection for a bruised rib but the Australian should be fit and available for their next match against London Broncos at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium on Sunday, June 23.