Brayden Williame scored twice as the red-hot Catalans Dragons took a huge leap towards a top eight finish with an enthralling 35-18 victory over Wakefield at the Mobile Rocket Stadium.
Despite going ahead early on as Justin Horo latched on to Tyler Randell’s kick through the defensive line, the visitors took control thanks to four tries in the opening half hour.
The magnificent Josh Drinkwater sent Greg Bird through a gaping hole to level the scores before Benjamin Jullien found Trinity’s right edge wanting again, charging over from a Samisoni Langi short ball, before the Dragons number six delicately kicked over the top for David Mead to touch down.
To add insult to injury, Kenny Edwards offloaded to Williame who outmuscled and outpaced the retreating defence to score, although Liam Finn’s kick bounced fortuitously to Tom Johnstone to race away from his own half on the stroke of half-time, reducing the arrears after Drinkwater’s penalty goal from inside his own half landed short.
Horo made it a four point ball game when he scampered over from dummy half 10 minutes into the second half. However, Tony Gigot added a drop-goal before quick hands between Edwards and Williame found Fouad Yaha, who kicked over the top for his Australian-born centre to score.
Yaha capitalised on a fumble from Ben Jones-Bishop to score a try of his own and discard any hopes of victory for the home side, who claimed their ninth victory in 11 matches and moved three points clear of ninth-placed Leeds with three games to play.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Langi-Drinkwater has the makings of a good partnership
On the basis of today, the growing partnership between Samisoni Langi and the mercurial Josh Drinkwater is certainly something for Steve McNamara to work with.
Langi has often played second-fiddle to Drinkwater and Greg Bird this year, but he made his return to the side against Leeds in June and added to his previous two excellent showings with a quality performance again this time around, creating tries for both Jullien and Mead.
Greg Bird appears to be far more devastating in the forwards, having played there for most of his NRL career. Shifting the number 13 back to loose forward and bringing Tongan international Langi back into the fold has been a touch of genius by McNamara; it is little wonder that the Dragons have won three on the bounce since his return.
Slack defence costs Trinity
As has been the case on many an occasion this year, Wakefield shot themselves in the foot by conceding sort tries at pivotal points in the game.
Williame’s first effort, Jullien’s score and Greg Bird’s try were all courtesy of either lazy defending or poor numbering up towards the fringes. This is something that Chris Chester needs to work on if he wants his side to seriously challenge the top four between now and the end of the season.
The attacking qualities are there for all to see, but if he cannot fix their defensive fragility, their 2018 season could be in danger of developing into a bit of a damp squib.
Man Of The Match- Josh Drinkwater
The Drinkwater effort seems to be rolling on for Steve McNamara and co. The Perpignan side have won nine of his 11 games since he replaced the retired Luke Walsh back in April.
It is hard to remember how poor the Dragons were at the start of the season. Now, their new Australian half back seems to be giving them a new sense of guidance and creativity.
They are now level on points with Trinity and have a Challenge Cup semi-final to look forward to. If they can keep up their excellent form of late, they may well be the dark horses going into the latter stages of the season.
Wakefield Trinity 18
Tries: Horo 2, Johnstone
Goals: Finn 3
Drop Goals: n/a
Catalans Dragons 35
Tries: Bird, Jullien, Mead, Williame 2, Yaha
Goals: Drinkwater 5
Drop Goals: Gigot
Wakefield: Hampshire; Johnstone, Lyne, Tupou, Jones-Bishop; Miller, Finn; Fifita, Randell, England, Ashurst, Horo, Annakin.
Interchanges: Wood, Pauli, Arona, Hirst.
Catalans Dragons: Gigot; Tierney, Mead, Wiliame, Yaha; Langi, Drinkwater; Simon, McIlorum, Casty, Jullien, Garcia, Bird.
Interchanges: Moa, Bousquet, Baitieri, Edwards.