Huddersfield Giants 18 Wakefield Trinity 32: Joe Westerman inspires Trinity to another Magic win
IF THIS season went on for a little longer than scheduled, Wakefield Trinity would be confident of surging into the Super League play-offs - and causing some problems.
As it stands, their late rally has come too late but, in securing a fourth win in five games since taking over as interim head coach, Willie Poching continues to impress.
His Wakefield side, led admirably once more by England loose forward Joe Westerman and backed up by the powerful David Fifita, were too strong for a Huddersfield Giants side who made too many errors to truly be able to compete in this Magic Weekend affair.
Indeed, at times, it smacked of a ninth versus tenth Super League clash but Wakefield - despite losing England winger Tom Johnstone to another worrying head knock - always had that little more class in Newcastle.
The crucial point came when, with his side trailing just 14-6, Giants forward Sam Hewitt was sin-binned after being penalised for a second time for leading with his forearm in the 44th minute.
The second-row had already done so in the first period on Fifita and then came a similar incident as he ran into Jordan Crowther, incurring the wrath of Westerman who clearly spotted the foul when in close attendance completing the tackle.
Although 12-man Giants initially held out in the following set, Trinity forced a drop-out and, from there, Kelepi Tanginoa proved too strong as he ran over the top of teenager Will Pryce.
Mason Lino added his fourth goal and Giants were grateful to Ricky Leutele’s desperate tackle on Ryan Hampshire to prevent Trinity scoring again just as Hewitt was preparing to return to the field.
Giants, at least, did not capitulate at 20-6 down and Josh Jones, who never stops in their pack, did get over the line only to be held up.
Still, Ian Watson’s side scored at the end of that set when Sam Wood used all of his rangy six foot four inch frame to leap and brilliantly collect Pryce’s crossfield kick, Pryce reducing the deficit further.
However, Westerman, in his 300th Super League appearance, returned from the bench to give his side another timely lift.
The England loose forward had already led from the front with some powerful carries.
It was another one of those barreling charges that hurt Giants’ middle and set up position for Reece Lyne to slice over in the 68th minute.
Trinity will sorely miss the 31-year-old when he returns to Castleford Tigers next season.
Jones did get a deserved try late on as he twisted over from close range to prompt hope of the same sort of dramatic finish as Catalans Dragons’ epic effort last night when scoring three tries in the final four minutes to help force a win against champions St Helens.
Thankfully, for Poching and his Trinity side, there was no such repeat, Giants centre Leroy Cudjoe making an incorrect play-the-ball in the next set.
It was the sort of rudimentary error which too often hurt his side.
In this instance, it led to Chris Green crashing over in his 150th Super League appearance following a deft pass from front-row colleague Eddie Battye, Lino finishing with six goals from six attempts.
Huddersfield had got off to a perfect start with Pryce scoring with barely two minutes gone.
It was a try worthy of the Magic billing, too, as Olly Ashall-Bott claimed a high kick and then burst through Wakefield’s defence before speeding upfield.
He found Pryce in support and the 18-year-old stand-off, who has made such an instant impression in Super League since debuting in July, showed considerable pace of his own as he accelerated over on a diagonal run from 30m out.
He converted his own try but it was the last real attack of note for Watson’s side for the remainder of the half.
Ashall-Bott did make another electrifying break up the middle following Nathaniel Peteru’s late offload but the full-back spilled when finally brought down 10m from the line.
They did have an opportunity, at least, in the 34th minute when Lyne spilled near his own line to cede possession but Hewitt wasted it by being penalised for that illegal carry against Fifita.
Wakefield were far from smooth either but, crucially, they had struck with their chances.
Johnstone scored in the tenth minute with a trademark finish in the corner after Ryan Hampshire’s smart final pass.
Mason Lino improved and, just four minutes later, they were in again when Ashall-Bott failed to negate Jacob Miller’s high kick and Hampshire mopped up the pieces for another converted effort.
Thereafter, they were sloppy; as well as Lyne, Jay Pitts, Battye and Tanginoa all coughed up ball cheaply and Pitts was also dragged into touch by Wood after the second-row dared to try and get on the outside of the rangy winger.
Worryingly given his recent history with concussions, England winger Johnstone had to depart for a HIA in the 27th minute but at least Poching had a replacement waiting.
It is not often a hooker comes off and goes back on the wing but that is what Liam Kay found himself doing, the 29-year-old who has found himself converted from wideman to No9.
He showed all his old pace by darting down the left touchline just before the break and, after kicking infield, Bott was penalised for challenging Miller in the air.
From there, Nathan Peats was also penalised for holding down Fiftita and Lino’s kick made it 14-6 to Trinity at the break.
They would not look back.
Huddersfield Giants: Ashall-Bott; Cudjoe, Jake Wardle, Leutele, Wood; Pryce, Russell; Trout, Peats, Greenwood, Jones, McQueen, Lawrence. Substitutes: English, Cogger, Hewitt, Peteru.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire; Kershaw, Lyne, Arundel, Johnstone; Miller, Lino; Green, Kay, Battye, Pitts, Tanginoa, Westerman. Substitutes: K Wood, Fifita, Batchelor, Crowther.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield)