Tremendous Wakefield Trinity thrash Bradford Bulls to start Championship season with a bang

Wakefield Trinity ran in seven tries against Bradford Bulls to start their 2024 Championship season with a brilliant 42-12 victory.
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A double from Josh Griffin and efforts from Jack Croft and Oliver Pratt gave the home side a commanding 26-8 lead half-time, before debutant Derrell Olpherts, Max Jowitt and Lachlan Walmsley got in on the action in the second half.

Wakefield’s 25-year stay in Super League had ended in 2023 after a miserable year culminated in only four wins. You had to go all the way back to July 30 for their last league victory too, which, ironically, came against new head coach Daryl Powell’s Warrington side.

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That was his last league game as the Wolves’ head coach but Wakefield lost their remaining seven games as they went down with a whimper.

Lachlan Walmsley scored Wakefield's last try against Bradford Bulls in their Championship opener. Picture Jonathan GawthorpeLachlan Walmsley scored Wakefield's last try against Bradford Bulls in their Championship opener. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
Lachlan Walmsley scored Wakefield's last try against Bradford Bulls in their Championship opener. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

But Trinity have been transformed under Powell in 2024 even before a Championship ball had been thrown with five wins out of a possible six. Their only blemish recorded in last Sunday’s mud-bath Challenge Cup loss at local rivals Featherstone Rovers.

And Powell insisted his side needed to “step up” against a Bulls outfit who they will come up against in the semi-finals of the 1895 Cup, which Wakefield have excelled in.

The atmosphere and excitement among the sell-out 7,000 plus crowd at Belle Vue gave the impression that Wakefield were still at rugby league’s top table. The stunning firework display minutes before kick off only heightened the experience.

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The expectant crowd didn’t have to wait long for the fireworks on the pitch as Griffin went over after only seven minutes. But because he was tackled late by Jorge Taufua, the Bulls found themselves down to 12 men for ten minutes, while Max Jowitt converted an extra penalty for an 8-0 lead.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the visitors responded valiantly. And instantly. Kieran Gill broke deep from his own half, with Aidan McGowan supporting him all the way. Gill timed his inside pass to perfection and McGowan, who was superb on loan from Huddersfield Giants at Batley Bulldogs last season, slid over to get Bradford straight back into the contest.

And they were level soon after thanks to a Jordan Lilley penalty after Luke Gale was adjudged to be offside.

Wakefield, however, displayed why they are odds-on favourites to finish on top of the Championship with a hat-trick of tries before the half-time hooter.

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Griffin restored their lead after a great team move but he nearly went from hero-to-zero after dropping the ball straight from the restart. However, the Bulls failed to punish the home side as they produced a handling error of their own.

Hood then bustled over between the posts as Trinity’s lead was extended. But they had to be alert defensively to thwart a mesmerising Harvey Wilson run down the middle while George Flanagan was bravely held up on the line.

The best play of the half was saved until the very last moment. The hooter had already sounded by Powell’s men were not content in simply ending the half. Instead they worked it marvellously to the left and Lachlan Walmsley, the Championship’s top try scorer at Halifax Panthers last season, unselfishly passed inside to Pratt who went over.

Wakefield slightly faltered in the second half of their previous home game with Barrow Raiders in their 1895 Cup quarter final tie, but there was no danger of their standards slipping when former Leeds Rhinos winger Olpherts, who only signed for the club in midweek, diving over after a great assist from Mason Lino, who was at the heart of everything good about Wakefield.

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Another Lino played in Jowitt to steam over but the try scorer didn’t get the opportunity to convert his own score as he was sin-binned for his part in a melee behind the posts. Lino stepped up accordingly.

Bradford pulled one back through Gill after a cute Billy Jowitt grubber kick but Wakefield re-established their 30-point lead with a trademark Walmsley try - acrobatically diving over in the far corner for his first league try of the season.

There will surely be more to come for him, as well as from this exciting Powell side, who started their Championship campaign with a bang.

Wakefield: Jowitt, Olpherts, Croft, Pratt, Walmsley, Gale, Lino, Bowden, Doyle, Atoni, Ashurst, Griffin, Pitts

Interchanges: Uele, Cozza, Vagana, Smith

Tries: Griffin (2), Hood, Pratt, Olpherts, Jowitt, Walmsley

Conversions: Jowitt (5), Lino

Penalties: Jowitt

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Bradford: McGowan, Myers, Jowitt, Gill, Taufua, Gaskell, Lilley, Lawrence, Souter, Smith, Butler, Wilson, Hallas

Interchanges: Green, Appo, Okoro, Flanagan

Tries: McGowan, Gill

Conversions: Lilley

Penalties: Lilley

Attendance: 7,221