A spirited Wildcats fightback came up just short in an entertaining clash with Warrington at a blustery Rapid Solicitors Stadium.
Brett Hodgson’s drop goal sealed a win that was in the balance until five minutes from time after a valiant effort from the Wildcats to haul themselves back into a game that they trailed 24-6 at one point in the first half.
Paul Sykes took his career try tally to 99 with a brace in addition to five goals with Peter Fox claiming two scores of his own to add to further tries for Reece Lyne and Kyle Wood.
Ryan Atkins returned to his old stomping ground to score a brace, with Joel Monaghan and Stefan Ratchford both crossing the whitewash twice and Richard Myler also going over for the Wire.
Richard Agar names Andy Raleigh in the starting line-up in place of the suspended Justin Poore, with Lee Smith taking on to the role of full-back in the absence of Richard Mathers, allowing Reece Lyne to return at left centre.
Warrington opened the scoring with their first use of the ball, making 60 metres before spreading it left on the last tackle to find Atkins in space and the England centre kicked ahead for himself before sliding onto the ball and touching down.
The sides exchanged sets after that flying start for the Wolves until on 12 minutes Higham darted out from dummy half and found the pass to put Myler striding through a hole on halfway. The scrum-half had Ratchford in support for a run-in under the sticks.
Wakefield were handed an opportunity to hit back from the restart when Warrington came up with a second tackle error. A couple of strong carries from Kyle Amor set the platform from which Sykes took on the line and demonstrated excellent strength to shrug off Ben Westwood before reaching out for the line.
It was short lived joy for the home fans as Trinity were guilty of coughing up possession midway through a set. The Fleetmaster North Stand appealed in vain for a knock-on when the Wovles were close to the Wildcats line as referee Ben Thaler signalled a new set of six and when Waterhouse evaded two attempted tackles before freeing Myler, the scrum-half had the simple task of putting in Atkins for his second of the afternoon.
There was more quizzical looks towards the referee when Warrington added another on the back of a repeat set following the restart, with Brett Hodgson’s pass to Simon Grix looking suspiciously forward before he offloaded superbly to Joel Monaghan for the winger to dive over in the corner.
Pressure on the Wolves line was rare for Wakefield and it was imperative that they made the most of it when it came about. Danny Kirmond’s grubber on the last forced a dropout and when a penalty gave another full set 20 metres out, the Wildcats showed some neat handling of their own to put Fox in at the corner, the winger doing well to finish under substantial pressure from Wolves defenders.
Fox provided hope of a turnaround when he burst through a hole forty metres out in the next set and just evaded the attentions of Atkins to get to the line, an opportunity presented by Ratchford’s overhit restart sailing out on the full.
Spurred on by their strong finish to the first half, the Wildcats came out firing at the start of the second half and the first fifteen minutes of the half were almost exclusively spent in the Wire half of the field. Both Aiton and Kirmond were hauled down inches from the line by some staunch Wolves defence, but Lyne finally broke their resistance.
The increasingly influential Aiton got away from dummy half, offloaded to Lauitiiti and although the Kiwi’s pass was high above the centre’s head, he reeled it in and finished superbly from 15 metres.
Wakefield looked to hammer home their territorial advantage but turned the ball over cheaply on some final plays and Warrington began to find their way over the halfway line. On their first real venture to the Wildcats try line the Wire were just too good for the home defence, quick hands putting in Joel Monaghan at the corner.
The hosts gave up possession on the first tackle from a penalty that offered the opportunity to attack, and the Wolves marched Trinity back to their own line before Ratchford picked a line that ended under the sticks to give the Wolves a 12-point lead with 14 minutes remaining.
Wire again got back-to-back tries when Hodgson ripped through the heart of the Wildcats defence and had Myler typically in support to jog in under the sticks and seemingly seal the game.
Trinity responded once more when Wood finished off a move that started with the impressive Aiton. Things really got interesting when both Smith’s grubbered through, Joel Monaghan dived over the ball and Sykes was on hand to pick up and go over to bring Wakefield within six points.
There could have been a grandstand finish had Sykes’ penalty found touch five minutes from time but that allowed Warrington the field position from which Hodgson slotted over a drop goal.
Wakefield: L. Smith, Fox, Collis, Lyne, Cockayne, Sykes, T. Smith, Raleigh, Aiton, Wilkes, Mellars, Kirmond (c), Washbrook. Replacements: Lauitiiti, Wood, Amor, Annakin.
Warrington: Hodgson, Riley, Atkins, Grix, Monaghan, Ratchford, Myler, Cooper, Higham, Hill, Waterhouse, Westwood, Currie. Replacements: M.Monaghan, Harrison, Wood, Carvell.
This is Wakefield. Together We Are Stronger.