The grim reality behind Wakefield’s search for experience

James Gordon
Wakefield reality

For at least half of the match against St Helens, there were some signs of encouragement for Wakefield.

They fronted up against the world champions, albeit the hosts weren’t firing on all cylinders in the opening 40 minutes.

Morgan Smith and Mason Lino were tidy in ending sets for Trinity, which enabled them to have at least some control over territory in the first half. In fact, an ill-judged 40/20 attempt by Lino was the only time they enabled Saints to bring the ball back to half way on the first tackle, and that was punished by Mark Percival’s try from the resulting field position.

Their forwards rolled up their sleeves, with youngster Sam Eseh particularly forceful off the bench and he caught the eye with some tough defensive contributions.

Wakefield down to last 18 fit players

Wakefield’s dearth of options was evident in the fact they named two hookers on the bench, in Wigan loanee Tom Forber and youngster Harry Bowes, while Liam Kay started at number nine.

They will welcome back Liam Hood for their crunch derby clash with Castleford, and he’ll be desperate for more experience around him too – with Kevin Proctor, Renouf Atoni and Kelepi Tanginoa all thought to be close to a return.

The additions of Will Dagger and Innes Senior add some pace to the backline, though neither really got a great deal of opportunity to showcase it against St Helens.

Dagger did make a break in the second half and was tackled just short of the line, while the majority of Senior’s work was in defence in keeping the score down.

The man who Dagger replaced, Corey Hall, remains Wakefield’s top try scorer this season with two.

Trinity have scored a total of seven tries in their seven Super League matches this season, and they are averaging a measly six points scored per match.

On four occasions in their seven outings so far, Wakefield haven’t troubled the scorers.

With Dagger, Smith and Lino to be joined by Hood, coach Mark Applegarth will be desperate that their attack starts to click and fast.

Wasting opportunities

They were never likely to threaten St Helens, but despite their hard work up front, they never made the most of opportunities that presented themselves.

Lino should have held on to a pass inside from Jay Pitts after the back-rower made a break, but more disappointing than that was when Wakefield squandered good field position that had been gifted to them.

A Jack Welsby knock on from a menacing Smith kick gave them a scrum 15 metres out, with Saints then conceding a six-again straight away.

But on the first tackle, Jai Whitbread spilled the ball at the play the ball just metres from the line which meant the chance went begging.

Another error in the greasy conditions presented Wakefield with half a chance at the start of the second half too, but an offload attempt from Eseh on the second tackle saw the ball go forward.

Even when starting a set just inside the Saints half, Wakefield wasted the opportunity when Eddie Battye threw out a needless offload and a Saints player pounced on the loose ball.

Applegarth can only hope that with the return of experience, comes composure.

Samisoni Langi struggled when the ball made it out wide to him, while Reece Lyne had his work cut out containing Konrad Hurrell.

Adding more experience

Seven games and seven defeats is grim reading for Applegarth – but as he pointed out in his post-match press conference, there is still a lot of rugby to be played.

Proctor, Atoni and Tanginoa undoubtedly make the Wakefield pack a different prospect, while also relieving the workload that both Battye and Whitbread are having to carry long in to games due to the lack of experience behind them.

Josh Bowden is yet to make an appearance in 2023, while outside backs Jorge Taufua and Tom Lineham were also missing against Saints. Lee Gaskell, if fit, would provide an option in multiple positions.

Full-back Max Jowitt is a medium-term absentee, hence the signing of Dagger.

Wakefield are hopeful of adding a further signing ahead of Thursday’s game with Castleford.

Who that might be and what position remains to be seen. What is almost certain is that it will be a player of experience, because that’s what Wakefield desperately need.

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