After 150 days without rugby league, Wakefield Trinity were straight into a real arm-wrestle as Wigan Warriors edged out a tightly-contested affair at Emerald Headingley.
First-half tries from Zak Hardaker, Bevan French and Liam Marshall edged the Warriors ahead at the break following Kyle Wood’s first try of the season.
Jake Bibby added to Wigan’s advantage early in the second half, before a late flurry from Tom Johnstone and a Liam Kay debut-double brought Trinity kicking and screaming back into the contest.
However, it was not meant to be, as a late Harry Smith drop-goal gave the Warriors a 23-22 victory.
Following their arrival from Toronto during the suspension, Trinity head coach, Chris Chester, was boasted by new arrivals, Tony Gigot and Kay, while David Fifita was also included on the Trinity bench for the first time in 2020 following his return from a foot injury.
After a nip and tuck opening 10 minutes, which saw Johnstone dealt with an early scare following an elbow injury, it was Trinity who struck first. A lively looking Josh Wood enticed a penalty on the Warriors’ 20 and Gigot was on hand to kick the opening points of the game.
Wakefield’s lead proved to be short-lived, however, as a Warriors double put them in the ascendancy. After a sweeping move out to the right, Smith fed Hardaker, who ghosted through the Wakefield defence to touch down, before the Wigan centre turned provider, tapping through for French to give the Warriors an eight-point advantage.
Despite the deficit, Trinity continued to push for a route back into the contest. Substitute Wood was pulling the strings from hooker, sliding through a neat grubber towards the Wigan line, before Jacob Miller and Max Jowitt were held up by a resilient Warriors defence.
As Trinity piled on the pressure, the Wigan defence wilted and after an exceptional section of play, Wood made Wakefield’s possession count.
The hooker darted through the Warriors’ defence from dummy-half to score Trinity’s first try of the contest just past the half-hour mark.
Nonetheless, much to the same tune of the opening 40, Chester’s men failed to add to their new-found momentum as Wigan added a 10-point lead.
Following a Gigot mistake, Lam’s side pounced through influential half-back Jackson Hastings, who produced a neat grubber for Marshall to score his sixth try of the season just before the interval.
Almost mirroring the start to the first half, both teams failed to assert their dominance after the restart, however, it was Wigan who secured the opening score of the second period as Bibby powered over.
Back-to-back set restarts gave the Warriors some field possession, the ball was then fed out to Bibby, who held off multiple Wakefield defenders to touch down and establish a 22-6 lead.
Determined to make a game of it, Wakefield continued to press the Warriors’ line and a lack of discipline by Wigan gave an injured Johnstone the chance to touch down an indescribable score.
After a flurry of possession, new signing Gigot spotted some space out on the left, where an under-pressure Johnstone was on hand to collect, get an arm free and touch down in the corner to give Trinity a life-line.
Chester and his staff have drilled a never-say-die attitude into this Wakefield Trinity side and with Wigan looking vulnerable, a Kay double either side of a Smith drop-goal put Trinity within one point.
Despite a dramatic but brilliant second half display, a last-gasp Miller drop-goal attempt was off target and Trinity succumbed to a narrow one-point defeat.