MATCH REPORT: WILDCATS 38-24 EAGLES
Wakefield’s young guns proved the first team squad has plenty of depth with a strong victory over Sheffield Eagles on Friday night.
A line-up featuring thirteen members of the first team squad saw off last season’s Championship Grand Finalists with an assured display which included tries for Matty Wildie (2), James Davey, Sam Fletcher, Frankie Mariano, Matt James and Kyle Trout.
In a game that ebbed and flowed on the scoreboard, Mark Aston’s side were in it all the way thanks to scores for Dom Brambani, Sam Scott, Alex Szostak and Duane Straughier with the Wildcats superior fitness seeing the home side finish the stronger and score a brace of late tries.
After absorbing early pressure from the visitors the Wildcats struck the first blow. Wildie took advantage of the swirling wind to launch a towering high bomb that was too much to handle for Vinny Finigan and the scrum-half got to the loose ball first, hacked on and touched down beside the posts.
Within minutes Sheffield had brought the scores level. Simon Brown was influential throughout the night and his kick off the outside of his right boot into centre field took a favourable bounce for Brambani who gathered and gave Brown a simple conversion for an immediate response.
As both sides vied for territory it was always going to be a mistake that broke the deadlock and when Mariano was pulled up for hands in the tackle it gave the Eagles a repeat set 25 metres from the line. Brown got the ball in his hands and his short flat pass to Scott put him through a gap and over the line.
After holding out some significant pressure on their own line the Wildcats hit back through Davey. Wildie’s charged down kick earned a repeat set and when the ball was worked left, Davey threw the dummy and sliced through a gap in the Sheffield defence to score.
With the hooter approaching it was the home side that finished strongly as Mariano made the incisive run down the left edge, drew his man and fed Fletcher who bounced away the attentions of the covering Eagles defence to race in.
The Wildcats began to assert their own game on Mark Aston’s men in the second half and after a Dale Morton break got the hosts on the front foot, repeat sets on the Eagles line culminated in Davey racing into dummy half, scooping the ball up on the run and passing to Mariano who took three Sheffield defenders with him over the line.
Glenn Morrison was in charge of the side for the first time and his men had upped their game in the second period and the Eagles looked devoid of ideas in breaking the defensive line. The brute force option ultimately proved beneficial for them though as Szostak burrowed his way over from close range.
If that was meant to spark a fightback for the visiting supporters in the crowd of 1,007 then their hopes were quickly dashed as Wildie spotted half a gap, brought out the left arm fend to swat away an Eagles defender to restore the hosts lead.
Sheffield weren’t giving up the ghost without a fight though and exposed the Wildcats right edge to allow Straughier to step in off his wing and following Brown’s excellent conversion the sides were again separated by only two points.
A tiring Eagles side plotted their own downfall though by conceding successive penalties and from the tap James bulldozed three Eagles out of the way en route to the line.
Gareth Moore then provided the moment of the match when he ran to his left and with the inside of his left foot reversed the ball towards the sticks where Kyle Trout took the ball on the bounce to round the game off in style.
Wildcats: Kay, Morton, Walshaw, Cowling, Fletcher, Ansell, Wildie, James, Davey, Spiers, Slater, Mariano, Trout. Replacements: Annakin, Wright, Lillycrop, Moore, Hardcastle.
Eagles: Turner, Bergin, Morrison, Straughier, Finigan, Brambani, Brown, Hepworth, Henderson, Howieson, Szostak, Green, Knowles. Replacements: Higgins, Rowe, Battye, Hanson, Scott, Straughn, Smith, Hawksworth.
Referee: C. Halloran
This is Wakefield. Together We Are Stronger.