FULL-TIME: WILDCATS 23-23 SALFORD

posted on 10 March 2013

A Paul Sykes drop goal with just over a minute remaining salvaged a draw for the Wildcats against Salford at a bitterly cold Rapid Solicitors Stadium.

Paul Sykes salvaged a draw for the Wildcats with a drop goal just over a minute from time.

Sykes’ left footed strike cancelled out Marc Sneyd’s effort minutes earlier that had given the Reds a single point lead with just four minutes left on the clock in what was a low quality encounter.

Peter Fox had opened the scoring for the Wildcats early on but it was an uncharacteristically lacklustre performance on the whole from Trinity, with Frankie Mariano, Dean Collis, Danny Washbrook and Ben Cockayne the other try scorers for Richard Agar’s men.

Salford were under the stewardship of former Wakefield winger Alan Hunte for the first time as Jack Murphy, Jodie Broughton, Theo Fages and Lee Jewitt all crossing the whitewash, with Sneyd contributing seven points including his drop goal on what was a hugely difficult day for the kickers with a strong, swirling wind.

Agar recalled Oliver Wilkes following Andy Raleigh’s injury against Catalan Dragons, whilst Kyle Amor was dropped for what Agar revealed were off-field reasons, seeing Kyle Trout starting at prop and Vince Mellars coming onto the bench.

Wakefield started brightly enough, as slick hands down the right concluded with Collis feeding Fox who had the strength to finish in the corner after just two minutes.

Salford soon responded as Matty Ashurst broke clear on halfway and had the composure to find Broughton, the highly rated winger making the most of Collis’ slip to round off the move in the corner.

It was from then on that the game became scrappy, the conditions no doubt playing their part but they had nothing to do with the Wildcats allowing Jewitt to take advantage of some soft defence in the middle of the park to get over the line under the posts from close range.

Trinity were off their game in attack but conjured up something on the last play to get within two points of the visitors.  Richard Mathers made the incisive break and popped the ball up for Collis to get the try.

Any chance of that sparking some momentum evaporated when the Wildcats were pulled up for a forward pass on the first play of the following set, and although the ball seemed to go forward from Ashurst as he attempted to offload as he went to ground, Fages didn’t ask any questions when gathering and scrambling his way to the try line.

It was a half of frustration for those in the red, white and blue, and when Wilkes knocked on 15 metres out close to half-time, it seemed another chance had gone begging.  But credit to the Wildcats scrum, catching Salford unprepared, driving them back to win the ball and it was once again the final play of the set that saw Tim Smith send Mariano cantering untouched through a hole to score.

There was still time for controversy at the end of the first half as the Wildcats were penalised for laying on in the tackle.  Sneyd opted to go for the two points with time ticking away, and as the ball sailed into the Fleetmaster North Stand, the touch judges were split on whether the ball had bisected the posts.  Referee Thierry Alibert agreed the ball had gone between the uprights and the Reds had a four-point lead at the break.

The second-half followed much the same pattern of the first, scrappy and attritional as both sides looked for fluency.  When Lee Smith knocked on 40 metres out, Murphy was quickest to react and raced down the right hand touchline to score in front of the small band of travelling Reds fans.

Washbrook took ran a good line to go over from a Tim Smith pass to leave the game in the balance once more but the Wildcats chances of chasing down their four-point deficit took a blow with around 15 minutes remaining when the scrum-half limped from the field of play.

Despite the playmakers absence, Trinity did get the next score as the ball was worked into the hands of Cockayne, who marked his call-up to the England squad by diving over in the left hand corner to bring the sides level.  Sykes’ conversion attempt from the touchline never stood a chance given the strength of the wind.

The Reds were the first to work a position for a drop goal and despite heavy pressure and Mathers getting his hand to the effort, it could prevent Sneyd’s kick sailing between the posts from ten metres.

Trinity worked the ball forward to put Sykes in position for a strike just to the left of the posts, and after some consideration, Alibert signalled it was good.

Wilkes returned the restart with interest to put Wakefield on the front foot and give hope of another drop goal chance, but ultimately Sykes was forced to send his effort towards the post from 40 metres out and it never really threatened, meaning the sides shared the spoils.

This is Wakefield. Together We Are Stronger.

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