Leeds Rhinos 15 Wakefield Trinity 13: Chris Chester "proud" but it's extra-time heartache for winless Wakefield
When you are winless and joint-bottom of Betfred Super League, you need any luck you can get.
Wakefield Trinity got none last night as they suffered a seventh consecutive defeat in the cruellest of circumstances.
Desperate Leeds Rhinos, on a five-game losing run themselves, secured victory with a penalty in the second minute of Golden Point extra-time after Konrad Hurrell’s mountainous charge got them in position.
As Leeds advanced closer via King Vuniyayawa, Jay Pitts, the Trinity second-row, ripped possession from the Rhinos player but the tackle was controversially deemed to have already been completed. Referee Robert Hicks gave a penalty which Rhyse Martin simply converted.
There had already been drama in the final stages of this West Yorkshire derby.
Mason Lino’s 75th minute penalty had levelled the game at 12-12 but team-mate Tini Arona threw an awful pass from the restart to concede possession and gift Luke Gale – the Leeds captain on his return from a fractured thumb – the chance to immediately slot a drop-goal.
Nevertheless, Wakefield, who had defended magnificently, found enough energy to gain position for Lino to equalise with his own one-pointer but they still needed Max Jowitt to charge down another Gale attempt with the final play.
Defeat was hard on Chris Chester, the Trinity coach who this week admitted he did not know if his contract would be extended in 2022.
His players clearly showed here they are fighting for him, especially given the situation they found themselves in.
They lost hooker Jordan Crowther to injury in the opening exchanges and then saw prop David Fifita trudge off with a rib issue not long after he had come on in the first period.
Add in the fact that Trinity lost their first-choice hooker Kyle Wood to a calf injury in Thursday’s final training session and you could understand why Chester must have feared the worst.
Admittedly, they led 10-6 at half-time, the first time they had been in front at the interval this season.
However, they had spent the majority of the first period defending.
Fortunately for Trinity, Richard Agar’s side were badly off-cue with their execution and ressembled a side that had spluttered so much this term.
Every time Luke Sutcliffe looked to attack Wakefield’s left edge, his side seemed to err, Hurrell coughing up one of his passes and Martin soon doing likewise.
In fairness, Wakefield defended their own line admirably in the opening exchanges, showing remarkable resilience as they held out for four successive sets and then scored with their first attack via a crisp move for Liam Kay to score in the 19th minute.
Lino could not convert and then sent a forward pass to Westerman in the restart set.
Nevertheless, Leeds failed to capitalise – Hurrell spilled – and, instead, Trinity added a second try.
Reece Lyne looked out of options when the England centre dabbed in a grubber but the usually infallible Ash Handley failed to mop up the kick and Lino kicked on to score.
Once more the Samoan could not improve, though, and Leeds responded when Matt Prior produced a ball steal on Kelepi Tanginona and Martin eventually muscle over.
Tanginoa had a difficult night; earlier, the prop sent a forward pass under no pressure and, in the second period, he conceded a penalty in possession on his own 20m.
Yes, his side were so spirited in defence – they bundled Sutcliffe into touch from that penalty – and they had already held up both Morgan Gannon and Jack
Broadbent with magnificent efforts.
In the second period, they also managed to hold Hurrell up but it was inevitable all the energy spent would eventually could come back to haunt them.
Hurrell did score in the 55th minute and Martin converted but all the drama was still to come.
Leeds Rhinos: Broadbent; L Briscoe, Hurrell, T Briscoe, Handley; L Sutcliffe, Gale; Oledzki, Dwyer, Prior, Mellor, Martin, O’Connor. Substitutes: Leeming, Vuniyayawa, Walters, Gannon.
Wakefield Trinity: Ashall-Bott; Kershaw, Lyne, Arundel, Kay; Jowitt, Lino; Arona, Crowther, Tanginoa, Ashurst, Pitts, Westerman. Substitutes: Fifita, Eaves, Battye, Green.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).