WAKEFIELD TRINITY suffered last-gasp heartbreak as they were beaten 24-18 by St Helens in their first home game of the season.
Coach Chris Chester wanted a response from the shock 42-24 defeat at London Broncos in Betfred Super League round one and he got it as Trinity pushed last year’s league leaders all the way.
Trinity led once and hit back to level the scores twice, but – with the game heading for golden-point extra time – Saints snatched it with their fifth try just 130 seconds from the end.
Though the margin would have been greater if Mark Percival had packed his kicking boots, the result was tough on Wakefield who gave their all and were on top for much of a thrilling clash.
Having started too well in their previous game, when they raced 12-0 and 18-6 ahead early on, Trinity did the opposite this time, trailing 6-0 and 10-4, but hitting back superbly to square the scores at the break.
Trinity went ahead early in the second half, Saints regained the lead in the third quarter and the hosts again rallied to level matters before the late drama.
Saints got over Trinity’s line twice in the opening minute after Danny Brough caught the kick-off and passed to David Fifita who knocked on. Fifita went on to put in a huge shift in a 72-minute stint over two spells.
Direct from the scrum Kevin Naiqama was held up and then Percival touched down, but it was clearly a double movement and the penalty took the pressure off.
On eight minutes Trinity created an overlap on their left, but Jacob Miller fumbled and the hosts conceded back-to-back penalties from which Morgan Knowles crashed over and Percival added the extras.
The game was littered with penalties and Trinity were reduced to 12 men temporarily after 18 minutes when Brough got upset at a decision on Wakefield’s line, refused to let it go and was sin-binned for words said to a touch judge.
Wakefield had been getting back into the game at that stage and the adversity lifted them more than the numerical advantage did Saints.
Brough had been off just three minues when Tom Johnstone dived over spectacularly from a pass by Ryan Hampshire who could not convert off the touchline.
Wakefield almost added another from a low kick by Miller on the last, but Danny Kirmond was held up over the line.
Wakefield were penalised in the next set and – seconds after Brough had returned to the field – Tommy Makinson scorched over for an unconverted try from Lachlan Coote’s pass.
That was against the run of play, Trinity having pinned Saints inside their own half for a solid 10-minute spell, but the hosts replied almost immediately with a brilliant try scored, almost inevitably, by Johnstone.
The build-up was most impressive this time as Matty Ashurst made the initial break and Miller was in support to provide the final pass. Brough landed a towering conversion from wide out.
Trinity could have been ahead at the interval, forging a series of chances including on the final play of the half when Miller’s break split the defence.
Craig Huby was trapped in possession on the last and suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder when he fell awkwardly in the tackle. He was still being treated long after his team-mates had got into the changing rooms. He managed to walk off, but was obviously in pain.
Huby had missed the game at London with a knee problem and came into the side along with Kirmond and Justin Horo.
Tyler Randell and James Batchelor dropped out owing to injury and Jordan Crowther was left out.
Brough booted Trinity ahead with a penalty goal six minutes into the second half, but Wakefield turned the ball over in the set from the restart and Regan Grace scored after Fages and Coote had combined from the scrum.
Miller had a good game with the ball, but his defence kept Trinity in it when he got across to tackle Makinson – who had looked a certain scorer – into touch just short of the line.
Brough used the wind to land a 40-20 and Wakefield forced a series of drop-outs, but Trinity weren’t clinical enough close to the line and Saints broke away to go six points clear with 13 minutes left when Makinson grabbed his second try after Fages and Jonny Lomax linked across the line.
Percival again failed to convert – his third successive miss – and Trinity were level with nine minutes of the match remaining when Miller’s intelligent pass sent Bill Tupou through a gap.
Brough converted, but was off-target with a penalty from halfway after Coote’s kick – for the second time in the game – had gone out on the full.
Coote missed with a drop goal and the game looked set to be the first in Super League to go to extra-time until Lomax’s pass sent Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook over and Percival’s conversion completed the scoring.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Tupou, Johnstone, Miller, Brough, Fifita, Wood, England, Ashurst, Kirmond, Arona. Subs Horo, Huby, King, Kopczak.
St Helens: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Percival, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, Knowles. Subs Paulo, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lees, Amor.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).