St Helens inflicted a fifth straight defeat on Wakefield Trinity Wildcats with a 26-12 victory in an error-strewn game at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium on Sunday.
Wildcats’ play-off hopes were already over going into the game thanks to Hull KR’s shock win at Leeds on Friday night but Saints rubbed salt into the wounds in Wakefield’s penultimate home match of the Super League season.
Nathan Brown’s men lay the foundations with two tries inside the first ten minutes and they did not look back as they continued their good form with a fifth straight win going into the play-offs.
Reece Lyne’s fine try just before half-time gave Wakefield hope and when Kyle Amor touched down just after the hour mark, and with Saints a man down due to Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook’s sin-binning, Wakefield sensed a fightback.
But Lance Hohaia’s breakaway try just four minutes later ended any hopes of a Wakefield win.
Wakefield received good news on the injury front before the game with Dean Collis and Justin Poore returning to action after hamstring and knee injuries respectively.
Frankie Mariano was missing with a hip injury, however, and Danny Washbrook moved to second row with Taulima Tautai starting at loose forward. Young Liam Kay continued on the wing with Bobbie Goulding a second-half replacement.
Saints welcomed Sia Soliola back after a two-month absence through a foot injury. The second-rower replaced Greg Richards in the only change Brown made to the squad that beat London last time out.
The visitors arrived in West Yorkshire as one of the form teams in the competition and they continued that momentum with the opening try within two minutes.
It was aided by poor Wakefield defence as Jonny Lomax’s kick-off evaded Tim Smith and Kyle Amor and Saints forced Richard Mathers to concede a drop out. From the resulting set Anthony Laffranchi bounced off a couple of tackles to score and Lomax added the extras.
It was all Saints early on and, after forcing another drop-out, their efforts were soon rewarded with another try. Francis Meli did well to suck in a couple of defenders before off-loading for winger Adam Swift to score in the corner.
Wakefield started to get themselves in the contest but sloppy passing and bad errors thwarted their attempts to create many scoring opportunities. The closest the hosts came was through Kay but Saints kept them out.
It was not a game for the rugby league purists and the visitors played their part, swapping knock-ons with their hosts and making decisions that cost them an even greater advantage.
Brown’s men were still on top, however, and the returning Soliola spotted a gap in the Wakefield defence to barge over from close range with just his second touch to cement the visitors’ dominance.
Wildcats needed the next score to stay in the contest and they got it four minutes before the break. Ben Cockayne created a chance for Lyne, who beat Lomax for pace and raced almost 80 metres down the left to score. Lee Smith successfully added the conversion to give the hosts some hope going into the interval.
But that hope was dented just six minutes after the restart when Saints extended their lead. After a cagey opening Tom Makinson produced a great kick down the right and Lomax raced forward to touch the ball down just before it went dead to take his points tally for the season to over 100 in 15 matches.
The try looked to have knocked the stuffing out of Wildcats but the sin-binning of McCarthy-Scarsbrook just after the hour mark, for Saints’ persistent offending near their own line, swung some momentum back Wakefield’s way.
Wildcats made their extra man count when Kyle Amor crashed over for a try soon after and Bobbie Goulding converted to score his first Super League points.
The in-form Wakefield prop almost got over again minutes later but Lomax produced a brilliant tackle to force the Cumbrian to knock-on with the line at his mercy.
Amor’s score kept the contest alive but Saints hit Wakefield with a sucker-punch four minutes later to temper their hosts’ boost in morale. Puletua off-loaded to put Lomax in the clear and he passed for the supporting Lance Hohaia to score and on-song Saints to victory.
Wildcats: Mathers, Fox, Collis, Lyne, Cockayne, L Smith, T Smith, Poore, Aiton, Amor, Kirmond, Washbrook, Tautai. Subs: Lauitiiti, Goulding, Wilkes, Raleigh.
St Helens: Lomax, Makinson, Turner, Meli, Swift, Wilkin, Hohaia, Puletua, Howarth, Laffranchi, Jones, Manu, McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: Walker, Walmsley, Wellens, Soliola.
Referee: James Child.