Wildcats Head Coach, Richard Agar, praised the influence of his pivots in securing an opening round win over Widnes Vikings.
After falling behind and spending much of the first half camped on their own try line, the Wildcats built on their solid defensive effort in the first half to allow Tim Smith and Isaac John the opportunity to shine in the second period.
Shine they did, with Smith crossing in addition to tries from Andy Raleigh and a late Peter Fox brace to give a deserved 32-14 win in front of the Sky cameras.
“I thought we had some really strong players,” said Agar after the game.
“I thought we got erratic and we lost our composure a bit in the first half but we had some players that did big stints tonight. Washy and Kirmond had to cover Collis on the edge.
“I thought Mathers was really strong at the back and I thought once our pivots got into it they won us the game.
“Woody gave us a good injection off the bench and I thought Kyle Amor’s second stint was outstanding.
“I think when we were recruiting some people said we were a small team and we might lack a bit of punch. Maybe I’ve been scolded a little bit in my previous job but I was keen to get some footballers and some strong football smarts in there.
“We’ve got plenty of good players in pivotal positions. For the first 40-45 minutes I thought they were very erratic, didn’t play with any composure and I thought our end of sets weren’t as good in comparison to the other team.
“But once we did get control in that last 35 minutes of the second half I thought we showed the potential of what we’ve got inside us football wise. Some of the stuff that they put on was terrific.”
In a first half dominated territorially by the hosts, the Wildcats defensive line stood firm for the most part, only conceding two tries when in truth the Vikings could have expected much more for the weight of possession in their favour.
But Agar said he always felt that some basic changes in the second period would reap rewards.
“In the first half we had four clear-cut chances that we should have put away. Ben Cockayne had a couple to get in the corner, Isaac and Dean had a gilt edged chance and when Ali went through I thought we could have scored that.
“I wasn’t bothered about the fact that we had some points in us. I was more worried about us defensively. Everything was just too quick for us and we played a hell of a lot of the first half on our own try line.
“But on a positive, we held up generally and conceded a try from a kick for one of them.
“The big messages at half-time were to get our line a little straighter; roll our sleeves up and work harder in the tackle; and we put the onus on our halves to improve our last tackle plays.
“That would give us enough field position to give our attack a bit of a chance which it did.
“I thought Kyle Wood was a big change for us. He gave us some clean service and we wanted him to use his kicking game. His first kick got charged down and they got a try against the run of play but he didn’t go into his shell.
“He kept on knocking the ball into the corner when he got the chance and I thought his service and his running game out of dummy half was terrific.”
Agar lost the services during the game of Dean Collis (dead leg), Andy Raleigh (concussion) and Ali Lauitiiti (cramp) whilst Isaac John and Vince Mellars also both struggled with cramp.
With that in mind Agar was proud of his sides ability to deal with enforced changes and refused to put too much criticism on the much discussed i-Pitch.
“We did it quite tough,” Agar commented.
“We lost Dean Collis with a dead leg, Andy Raleigh with concussion and we struggled for rotation with three guys out there struggling with cramp.
“I’m pleased that we finished the game with as much energy as we did.
“I’m not going to knock the pitch at this stage. I think one game is too early to judge.
“It’s obviously going to be a talking point and I can see the massive positives that it brings to the club.
“Our guys have got some cut knees but you get cut knees in rock hard conditions in the middle of summer as well so I’m sure the boys are tough enough to live with that.
“Under foot I thought there were a couple of times we looked like it was a little bit difficult but I don’t know how much the conditions on the night played a part in that.
“The jury’s out but let’s give it a chance. I was really pleased we were coming first up because I think everyone’s really going to be quick to pick on the negatives about it.
“There’s a lot of positives so let’s see how it plays over a test of time before we start complaining.”
The Wildcats will be back on grass next Sunday when they host Hull KR at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium (kick-off: 3.30pm).
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