Willie Poching has been promised an open audition to convince the Wakefield Trinity hierarchy he is the right man to succeed Chris Chester as the club’s head coach. This was about as impressive an opening gambit as he could have hoped for, even if there was a late reminder of how much of a challenge this job is.
Anything other than a Wakefield win here would have been unfair on the hosts, who dominated large periods of the contest against a Warrington side who were, in their own coach’s words, “unacceptable” in the first half.
But as indifferent as Warrington were before a late flurry of tries threatened the grandest of comebacks in the final quarter, credit must go to Wakefield too. They parted company with Chester last week after five years in charge, with the club keen to move in a new direction looking ahead to 2022.
With Leigh still yet to win a game this season, it is almost certain Wakefield will be in Super League next year. In truth their safety is now practically assured following this win. Leading 12-0 at half-time thanks to tries from Tom Johnstone and David Fifita, moving 20-0 ahead shortly after the restart, Wakefield looked set to give Poching a comfortable first match in charge.
“I don’t know whether we felt comfortable at that point,” Poching said. George Williams and Lee Kershaw exchanged tries before three Warrington scores in five minutes turned a 26-6 deficit into 26-22 with 10 minutes still to play. Suddenly, Wakefield’s mettle was being tested and usually, in positions such as these, they crumble.
But the spirit and fight they showed to keep Warrington at bay in the final minutes as they bombarded the Wakefield line underlined that Poching may well be the man to take Trinity forward. “We had enough about us to finish the job,” Poching said. “They showed what they can do for each other by turning up.”
His opposite number was far more frustrated. Warrington missed the opportunity to close the gap on second-placed St Helens with a win here, and had a dismal first half to blame. “That first half was totally unacceptable,” Steve Price said.
Johnstone’s interception try, followed by Fifita’s barge over from close range, made it 12-0 at the break. Mason Lino then finished a wonderful Wakefield team move, before converting and then adding a penalty to put Wakefield 20 points ahead.
Kershaw followed Johnstone with a magnificent interception of his own, and even when Williams and Austin crossed, they felt like consolation tries. But when Jake Mamo and Josh Charnley scored in the minutes afterwards, we had a grandstand finish on our hands. Wakefield, as Poching knows, are notorious for buckling when the chips are down. The fact they didn’t here will have done his chances of getting the job no harm.
Wakefield Jowitt; Kershaw, Arundel, Senior, Johnstone; Miller, Lino; Arona, Walker, Tanginoa, Pitts, Ashurst, Westerman. Interchange Fifita, Kay, Battye, Aydin.
Tries Johnstone, Fifita, Lino, Kershaw. Goals Lino 6.
Warrington Ratchford; Lineham, Mamo, Wrench, Charnley; Widdop, Williams; Hill, Walker, Cooper, Currie, King, Davis. Interchange Austin, Akauola, Ashton, Burgess.
Tries Williams, Austin, Mamo, Charnley Goals Ratchford 3.
Referee M Griffiths.