Harlequins Rugby League produced a comprehensive victory over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats yesterday at The Stoop, making it two wins from the first three rounds of Super League.
The home side were made to work hard for their victory, the opening twenty minutes of the first half saw a burst of points scoring, a Scott Grix try handed Wakefield an early lead, but shortly after Scott Hill brushed through some weak defence to open the Quins account.
A smart piece of play from hooker Chad Randall put centre Matt Gafa away for the next Quins try, but the good work was undone when the Wildcats found a massive hole in the middle of the Quins defence for Sam Obst, who had come on early for injured hooker Brad Drew, to burst through.
The final twenty minutes of the half saw Quins soak up consistent pressure from the visitors, and were fortunate enough to survive a close scare when powerful centre Ryan Atkins grounded the ball short of the line after Rikki Sheriffe failed to diffuse a towering bomb. The Wildcats bad luck was only to get worse, with former London Broncos centre Tony Martin and skipper Jason Demetriou joining Drew on the sidelines.
Despite the set backs Wakefield started the second-half strongly, utilising the offload to stretch the Quins defence and pick up some easy yards. Jamie Rooney came close to scoring with a surging run, only to find himself pulled down short by the impressive Mark McLinden. But a quick play the ball saw young back-rower Brett Ferres push off some sloppy marker defence to power over.
At 10 – 18 down Quins finally began the fight back; McLinden put centre David Howell in, only to see the effort ruled out for an imaginary forward pass. But the wrong was soon cancelled out when a minute later Kevin Henderson botched a scrum play in front of his own sticks and Chad Randall reacted fastest to poach the try. The lead swung back to Quins when Sheriffe capitalised on opposite number Luke George’s failure to deal with a bomb.
A try from Henry Paul, who ran himself into the ground in defence, put clear space between the two sides. Wakefield were beginning to run out of steam, with the first half injuries restricting them to just one fit interchange player. With a cushion now opened up the Quins had the opportunity to take a few chances, Gafa’s off the cuff kick behind the defence, bounced kindly allowing him to pass inside to Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook who raced away from the flagging Wildcats defence to cap the win.
Coach Brian McDermott will no doubt be impressed by the gritty determination of his side for the second week in a row. Loose forward Paul and prop Danny Ward in particular produced fine performances in both attack and defence. A big concern will be the injury to standoff Hill, who was forced off for the second consecutive game following heavy hits. The former Kangaroo has been growing in influence this term, following a first season with the club subdued by injury and illness.
Critics have predictably raised the issue of crowds as a late kick off, television coverage, the Six Nations and Wakefield’s smaller away support saw the gate drop from over 8,000 against Wigan to just over 3,000 yesterday. However, given the combination of negative factors, the club will probably be thankful that Sky chose to televise a game against a side with a more modest away following, as the potential loss of gate receipts would be much more significant against one of the bigger sides such as Wigan, Leeds or Saints.
Cynics may also question the decision of Sky Sports Boots ‘n’ All programme to use this particular game for it’s preview of 2008 license applications. The combination of factors for this particular game offering a perfect showcase for a predictable, rote like, “journalism by numbers” feature in which Quins gain credit for facilities and development work but get marked down weak crowds. Whether such sloppy regurgitation will actually guide the editorial is yet to be seen, but the odds in favour of it are likely to be very short.
Harlequins RL: 34 (10)
Tries: Hill, Gafa, Randall, Sheriffe, Paul, McCarthy-Scarsbrook
Goals: Purdham 5
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: 18 (12)
Tries: Grix, Obst, Ferres
Goals: Brough 3