Both Wakefield and Leeds will be searching for their first win of the season on Thursday night having lost their first three games of the season, with a big crowd expected at Belle Vue.
Trinity coach Willie Poching spent five seasons at Leeds as a player, winning the 2004 Grand Final, but he will be hopeful of getting one over on the Rhinos in this crucial West Yorkshire derby.
Despite losing their first three, Wakefield have impressed in narrow defeats to Hull, Catalans and St Helens; whereas the Rhinos were valiant in defeat to Warrington on the opening day but have struggled in attack for the last couple of weeks going down to Wigan and Catalans, with Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer not yet igniting their halfback partnership.
Wakefield will be without winger Tom Lineham who picked up a knee injury in last week’s defeat to St Helens. Corey Hall suffered concussion in the same game while Thomas Minns misses out playing his former club having picked up a hand injury. They join Liam Hood and Bill Tupou remain sidelines, but Mason Lino could make his first appearance of the season.
In a boost for Richard Agar, Harry Newman and David Fusitu’a are expected to return and will likely replace Tom Briscoe, who has been filling in at centre, and Liam Tindall. Goal-kicking second-rower Rhyse Martin is also set to return to the starting 13 after missing last week’s defeat to Catalans following the death of his father.
Match Preview – Key battles:
Max Jowitt vs Jack Walker: Two fullbacks who have come through each club’s respective academy systems. There is no doubting the quality these two possess and having overcome injury problems, they are aiming to hit top form in 2022. Jowitt and Walker have had doubts over their physical attributes in the past, but they are pivotal to their team’s attack and after a slow start to the new season, they will be hopeful this is the game they peak in and pick up their first win.
Tom Johnstone vs Ash Handley: Both will be hopeful of making one of the starting wing spots in Shaun Wane’s England team come the World Cup, and this battle might provide an idea who is more likely to nail down one of them to positions. Arguably the two best finishers in the league, I think many would relish a foot race between these two and we could well see it at some point on Thursday night.
Jacob Miller vs Aidan Sezer: Which way this game swings will depend on the battle between the two playmakers. Now in his eighth season at Wakefield, Miller is still capable of controlling a game and he’s done that in the past against Leeds. The Rhinos faithful will be keen to see more from Sezer after a quiet start to life at Headingley, and this may well be the perfect game to show his new supporters what he is capable of.
Where the game will be won and lost:
Both sides have had no trouble in matching their counterparts in the forwards during the first three rounds, the problem for both has been in attack. Wakefield impressed against champions St Helens last week but couldn’t create enough when camped on the opposition line. It was a similar story for Leeds who couldn’t break down Catalans despite their counterparts playing 10 of the last 15 minutes with a man less. There needs to be more from the halves on both teams because they have players ready to take opportunities on the edges. The potential return of both Newman and Fusitu’a is huge for Leeds and with head coach Agar likely to come under pressure if the Rhinos go 0-4 for the season, they may just be that little bit more determined to get the win here, but it won’t be easy.
Score prediction: Wakefield Trinity 18-22 Leeds Rhinos