By Alan Domville (images by P&B Pictures)
With a hat-trick from Tom Lineham, his third coming after an 80-metre dash, Warrington defeated a Wakefield side, who had been lying joint second in the Super League table, in a thriller at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Lineham’s first try completed Wire’s opening set and from then on it was end-to-end action all the way from both sides while the Warrington’s front six proved more than a match for the huge Trinity pack.
Bryson Goodwin scored a try to restore Warrington’s lead in the first play of the second half, Mike Cooper was rewarded for his display with a fine touchdown and Ben Murdoch-Masila scored after swatting away several defenders in his path to put the issue beyond doubt – even though there were still more nail-biting minutes on the clock and tries for both sides.
While Josh Charnley, signed earlier this week from Sale Sharks, didn’t play and Ryan Atkins was still out injured Warrington had enough talent on display to earn valuable points on a night that gave the home fans some tremendous entertainment.
Trinity, whose forwards included former Wire Anthony England and the always dangerous Pauli Pauli, also contributed much to the showpiece, all of their three-quarters scoring tries.
Stefan Ratchford, Tom Lineham, Bryson Goodwin, Toby King, Mitch Brown, Kevin Brown, Tyrone Roberts, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Westwood, Jack Hughes, George King
Interchanges: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Sitaleki Akauola, Joe Philbin, Harvey Livett
Tries: Lineham (3), Goodwin, Cooper, Murdoch-Masila
Goals: Goodwin (2), Ratchford (3)
Scott Grix, Ben Jones-Bishop, Reece Lyne, Bill Tupou, Tom Johnstone, Jacob Miller, Liam Finn, Keegan Hirst, Tyler Randell, Anthony England, Danny Kirmond, Matty Ashurst, Justin Horo
Interchanges: Ryan Hampshire, Pauli Pauli, Tinirau Arona , Craig Huby
Tries: Lyne, Tupou, Finn, Johnstone, Jones-Bishop
Goals: Finn, Randell
Stefan Ratchford kicked off towards the west stand, Wakefield ran the ball to the sixth tackle still inside their own half and Warrington began their first offensive.
Ratchford swung the ball across to Lineham and the winger dived over to get the scoreboard ticking. Bryson Goodwin’s conversion attempt struck an upright but Wire had made a fine start.
A lift in the tackle resulted in a penalty to Wakefield but their subsequent move ended with a knock-on.
Warrington came again and certainly looked up for it. The first of many bombs sent high into the air by Tyrone Roberts looked as if it would cause Trinity another problem but it was safely gathered.
The visitors then replied after receiving another penalty 20 metres from the line and Reece Lyne raced over after dummying to Ben Jones-Bishop. Liam Finn couldn’t convert and so the scores were locked.
In their next set Trinity surrendered possession, the ball was scooped up and found its way to Lineham again via Ratchford and the winger raced over for his second four-pointer. Goodwin was on target with his kick this time and Wire were ahead 10-4.
A Kevin Brown kick to his right hand corner was palmed back by his namesake Mitch but the loose ball was collected by a defender.
A penalty to Wire took them back into the visitors’ half and Hughes and Cooper battled their way forward.
Referee James Child was unhappy with the attentions given to Cooper and awarded Warrington a penalty and Goodwin obliged.
While possession was lost in the next set Wire were still in the driving seat and Joe Philbin, just on, made a blockbusting tackle on England.
But quick hands from Trinity brought them the next try, Bill Tupou going over on the left flank. Again Finn couldn’t add the extras and it was now 12-8.
Soon afterwards it was Tupou break that led to another Wakefield try. The always lively Jacob Miller maintained the momentum and Finn crossed near the posts to give him an easier shot at goal and his side the lead.
The visitors almost struck again when a Miller kick to the line threatened but Mitch Brown was able to collect the ball on his knees.
A devastating break in midfield by Sitaleki Akauloa and a penalty to Wire put the visitors on the back foot again and while Mitch Brown just couldn’t squeeze in at the corner he was able to throw a speculator backwards; however it was collected by a defender.
A humdinger of a tackle by Murdoch-Masila on the giant Pauli gave the crowd something more to cheer and after a good break by Daryl Clark Wire forced a goal line drop out with just a minute to go before the break.
Wire were awarded another penalty and while it was unsuccessful the linesmen appeared to consult each other before making their decision.
Another terrific break in midfield by Akauola raised the temperature immediately after the restart and it led to Goodwin diving under the posts for a fine try to restore the home lead. Ratchford goaled and it was 18-14.
Warrington looked good for more when Kevin Brown sent the ball high into the air after the fifth near the visitors’ line but Ratchford couldn’t break the tackle.
At the other end, Lineham was able to collect a kick to the corner by Finn and managed to stay in play despite the attentions of several tacklers.
Akauola left the field to a deserved standing ovation and Jack Hughes was the hero soon afterwards when a quickfire Trinity handling move looked to have split the defence before the second rower intercepted.
With just over 20 minutes left Mike Cooper’s chase to the line and touchdown led to Wire establishing a 10-point lead. Good work by Clark, Lineham and Harvey Livett in the build-up was followed by a kick to the posts by Toby King and Cooper was first to the ball. Ratchford goaled and it was 24-14.
A great try – and more brilliance from the Wire would yield another two crackers.
Murdoch-Masila was 30 metres from the line when he began his magnificent solo effort, leaving several defenders in his wake as he crossed. The issue was now beyond doubt as Ratchford slotted home the goal that took Wire to 30.
Or was it? Wakefield hit back straight away when a short restart fooled the home defence and Tom Johnstone raced over in the corner. Tyler Randell’s conversion reduced Trinity’s deficit to 10 once again.
Both sides threw the ball about in desperation and there were knocks on both ways before Hughes was hauled down just short of the line as he ran the last move of the set.
With four minutes left Kevin Brown collected a grubber near his own line to the relief of the home crowd.
And then came Lineham’s third and best, the winger setting off 20 metres from his own sticks. He just managed to get over as Jones-Bishop made the tackle. Ratchford missed the conversion but surely it was all over now.
Not so. Wakefield used the short kick to restart once again and with just 16 seconds left received a penalty and Wire were given a team warning.
The ball was swung to the right and Jones-Bishop touched down as the final hooter sounded. Finn was unable to convert; it was the last action of a truly thrilling match.