Leeds Rhinos v Wakefield: Wildcats buoyed by giant step forward

Nick Scruton.
Nick Scruton.

A NEWLY-CONFIDENT Wakefield Trinity Wildcats team will face Leeds Rhinos at Headingley today.

Wildcats climbed two places to 10th in First Utility Super League after beating Huddersfield Giants 36-22 on Friday.

That was just their fifth win against top-flight opposition since the start of last season, but left them trailing Rhinos only on for-and-against and they have now scored more points than the defending champions, who have a game in hand.

The triumph three days ago was a flying start for new coach Chris Chester and Wildcats’ ex-Leeds prop Nick Scruton said they will go into today’s game in buoyant mood.

“I think we were the better side for 75 minutes of the game against Huddersfield,” Scruton said.

“There were a couple of two-minute spells when they got a roll on, but we completely dominated that game.

“Confidence is high, changes have been made and it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air now.

“We played well against Hull; even though we didn’t get the win the effort was there and we carried that into the Huddersfield game and got the win.

“Everybody’s buzzing and ready for Monday now.”

It is a big challenge to back up so quickly, but Scruton added: “It is a tough part of the year, but it’s the same for everybody.

“It’s not just tough for us, it’s physically demanding for every team.

“We don’t feel sorry for ourselves, we just get on with it. Now we’ve got that first win it is a big opportunity for us to climb the table. Leeds are struggling for confidence, they have lost five games already this season, so we know if we start well and complete high we are going to have a big chance.”

Rhinos won the treble last year and were 27 points clear of Wakefield when the competition split after 23 rounds. Asked if this is a good time to play them, Scruton said: “If ever there is a good time to play Leeds, then yes, why not?

“It would have been nice to have them at home, we would have been really confident then.

“Headingley is always a tough place to go and come away with the points, but we are confident.

“It doesn’t take much to get confidence running through the side.

“We’ve got a few bodies back now – Scott Moore coming back is a big lift for us and Kirmo [Danny Kirmond] coming back is a massive lift.

“They both played brilliantly on Friday, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Wildcats, whose previous coach Brian Smith quit earlier this month, played with a fresh enthusiasm against Giants and Scruton confirmed: “That was probably the first time we’ve played with a smile on our face for a while.

“We are enjoying ourselves and I think it showed. People who have maybe not been in favour, or have been afraid to make a mistake in case they got hooked with Brian, it’s a fresh start for them now.

“It is a clean slate. Everybody enjoyed Friday’s game.

“We tried something different – and it worked.” He added: “We need to carry that into Monday now.”

Rhinos lost 18-14 at Castleford Tigers on Thursday, but Scruton – a Grand Final winner with Leeds in 2008 – expects them to come good sooner rather than later. He predicted: “They are a champion side.

“As soon as they lose a player through injury they get an international back.

“We will be expecting a brilliant Leeds Rhinos team.

“After getting beaten away at Castleford they will be seething so we will be expecting a backlash.

“We will be prepared for that.”