Leeds strode confidently enough into their customary place in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, but they were given more resistance than they might have expected by opponents who could hardly raise a team. A squad with its experience and quality stretched dangerously thin made a good fist of it in the first half, before Leeds' extra depth and ability epitomised by their stand-off, Ben Walker, saw them run away with the tie by the end.
Walker, making an outstanding job of taking over as playmaker and goal-kicker from Iestyn Harris, finished with 22 points in a highly influential performance.
That was achieved after he twisted his knee in the warm-up. "He was playing on one leg,'' said the Wakefield coach Peter Roe. "I'm just glad we didn't have to play against him fully fit.''
Leeds also benefited from being able to bring high quality substitutes into the game in the second half, notably the New Zealand Test centre, Tony Carroll, making his first appearance after injury.
His return gave the Rhinos a lift when they needed it most and Roe would not be human if he did not envy the resources that his opposite number, Daryl Powell, enjoys at Headingley. "I've shaken each of the players by the hand and thanked them for the first-half performance,'' Roe said. "If they give me for the rest of the season what they gave me in that first 40 minutes we'll win more then we lose.''
A Wakefield line-up including two teenagers making their debuts – one of whom, the 17-year-old winger Matty Wray, Roe described as "a street urchin we picked up on the way'' – gave a splendid account of themselves in the early stages. They even had the audacity to take the lead when Chris Tassell hit Brad Davis's long pass at full speed and were still in touch at 10-6 down at half time, with Leeds' tries coming from Keith Senior and Andy Hay.
But they never recovered from a bad start to the second half when Chris Feather lost the ball and Carroll's tackling pinned them back. Leeds started to take complete control when Ben Walker's precise kick came back off the post for him to touch down and further tries followed from Francis Cummins and Chev Walker before Ben Walker claimed his second to go with his final tally of seven goals.
Wakefield continued to show spirit and deserved their reply from Nathan Wood's quickly taken tapped penalty, but an injury to Davis disrupted what was left of their team.
Willie Poching and Barrie McDermott completed the scoring for Leeds, whose coach had always been quietly confident that Trinity would be worn down. "We played some great stuff in the second half,'' Powell said. "We knew that if we could shift them around a bit we would cause them some trouble and that's what happen.''
Leeds: Cummins; St Hilaire, Vowles, Senior, C Walker; B Walker, Sheridan; Fleary, Pratt, McDermott, Hay, Adamson, Sinfield. Substitutes: Burrow, Poching, McDonald, Carroll.
Wakefield: Holland; Sovatabua, Tassell, Ellis, Wray; Davis, Wood; Broadbent, Handforth, Jackson, Field, Wrench. Slattery. Substitutes: Keating, Feather, Haughey, Snitch.
Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).Reuse content