ONE MOMENT of magic apart, Wakefield Trinity were outclassed by a very impressive Catalans Dragons side who are finally coming good under coach Steve McNamara.
Dragons were full value for their 35-18 victory and Trinity failed to do themselves justice.
They may have suffered even more damage to their points difference, but for a reviving try in remarkable circumstances on the stroke of half-time.
With 20 seconds left Catalans, leading 22-6, were awarded a penalty just inside their own half and scrum-half Josh Drinkwater opted to take a pot at goal.
The half-time hooter sounded before the kick was taken and it seemed there was nothing to lose, but the penalty attempt fell just short and was caught by Liam Finn.
Instead of taking a tackle or booting the ball dead, he chipped a kick to Trinity’s left wing which Tom Johnstone took inside his own half before scorching away to score a spectacular touchdown which Finn converted.
It took Catalans a while to get over that and the gap was reduced to four points when Lewis Tierney – who had bounced the ball over Wakefield’s line moments earlier – was sin-binned for tackling Johnstone in the air and Justin Horo scored in the set from the penalty.
Wakefield, though, failed to take advantage of their extra man and Catalans regained the control they had held in the first half, when they produced some outstanding rugby.
For Trinity, Johnstone was always lively, Bill Tupou had a good game and Horo shone against his former club, but after a strong start – when props David Fifita and Anthony England got them on the front foot – the hosts were well below their best.
Former Wakefield player McNamara has got Catalans ticking and this victory lifted them to seventh, behind Trinity on points difference and left the Yorkshire club facing a nervous final few weeks of the regular season. They have points in the bag, but the race to avoid the bottom four could go down to the wire and Trinity will need to improve to secure a place in the Betfred Super-8s.
Catalans’ discipline lets them down at times and they conceded the first five penalties, the count eventually finishing six-four. That allowed Wakefield to apply early pressure and they went ahead after five minutes when Horo touched down from acting-half Tyler Randell’s kick, Finn adding the first of his three conversions.
Drinkwater’s pass sent Greg Bird in soon afterwards and a key moment came after 24 minutes when Horo kicked to the blindside on the last tackle, but Ben Jones-Bishop fumbled before he could get the ball down. He had another touchdown ruled out for a knock-on in the second half.
Catalans scored in each of the next two sets. Tony Gigot and Samisoni Langi combined to carve out an opportunity for Benjamin Jullien whose strong finish gave Catalans the lead; then David Mead ran on to Langi’s well-judged kick over the hosts’ line.
Catalans increased their advantage on 33 minutes with a superb try by Brayden Wiliame, who threw a dummy to get on the outside of the defence and evaded full-back Ryan Hampshire from 40 metres out.
Drinkwater booted a penalty after Horo’s second try and Gigot landed a drop goal. Wiliame’s second try put the game out of Wakefield’s reach with 10 minutes left, Drinkwater kicking his fourth and final conversion and Fouad Yaha pounced on a mistake to complete the scoring in the final moments.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire, Johnstone, Lyne, Tupou, Jones-Bishop, Miller, Finn, Fifita, Randell, England, Ashurst, Horo, Annakin. Subs Wood, Pauli, Arona, Hirst.
Catalans Dragons: Gigot, Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha, Langi, Drinkwater, Simon, McIlorum, Casty, Jullien, Garcia, Bird. Subs Bousquet, Moa, Edwards, Baitieri.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).