Wakefield Wildcats head coach Richard Agar says knowing a play-off spot was out of reach did not affect his side’s performance in Sunday’s 26-12 home defeat against St Helens.
Victories for Hull FC and Hull KR on Friday night ensured a top-eight finish was beyond Wakefield with just six points to play for and a seven-point gap to close ahead of the visit of Nathan Brown’s men.
Saints inflicted a fifth straight defeat on Wakefield but Agar believes his men were fully focused on the task at hand and says the loss typified recent performances.
“It was probably symptomatic of the way we’ve played for the last month so I don’t think being in or out of the play-offs made too much difference,” he said.
“I thought our attitude to compete was okay and I thought we controlled a lot of tackles during the course of the game. But we sound like a broken record. We’ve thrown a first half in at 50 per cent and done marginally better in the second half and while we’re making fundamental errors it’s going to be hard on ourselves.
“I thought for the best part we controlled a lot of rucks but we came up with four or five really poor defensive plays that let our tries in, but when you’re continuously turning the ball over like we were, eventually, especially against a team like Saints, it will find you.”
Agar thought there were some good individual performances within his team, but pointed the finger at his half-back pairing for below-par showings.
“I feel that our halves could be playing better,” he said. “I think that’s a little bit of a key for us at the moment. It’s very difficult when they’re feeding off scraps like they are but I feel they could have a little bit more involvement and quality involvement to what they’re having at the moment.”
He continued: “We had some good plays on the day. I thought Kyle Amor’s effort and Paul Aiton in particular put a couple of really good stints in and Reece Lyne scored a fantastic try and was really solid defensively as well. Danny Kirmond’s effort on the try-saving tackle, I thought we had some really good efforts out there but we’re just off the mark at the moment and particularly what we’re doing with the football we’re asking too much of the defence.”
Wildcats sniffed the chance of victory when Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook was sin-binned for Saints and Kyle Amor ensured Wakefield took advantage of the extra numbers with his first try of the season. The Cumbrian had a chance to double his try tally minutes later but failed to touch down and Agar believed it was a crucial part of the contest.
“I don’t think either side will have been particularly happy with the way they were travelling when there might have been 18 minutes left,” he said.
“We got them down to 12 men, I think the score was 20-12 at that time and if Kyle scores under the posts there it’s 20-18 and we’ve still got a period of six or seven minutes down to 12 men and the turnaround was huge for us.
“We knocked off on a marker play and missed a tackle on [Tony] Puletua and all of a sudden there was decent daylight between the teams and I thought that was the difference in the game.
“We were in it until then and I thought we had opportunity if he gets that ball down to give ourselves a better shot at winning the game with a two-point margin but we didn’t.”
Agar reported no major injuries from the match and hopes to have Paul Sykes back in contention for Wildcats’ next match at Huddersfield Giants in two weeks’ time. Frankie Mariano should also be available following a hip injury.