Billed as the ‘relegation decider’ it was impossible to underestimate the importance of a round twenty-two clash between Wakefield Trinity and the Castleford Tigers with the loser being cut two points adrift at the bottom of the table.
The ‘Sold Out’ notices were up days before the game and Sky changed their planned fixture to cover the game for the interested thousands who could not get ground entry.
While it was by no means all over for the losers, the winner would certainly have an advantage going into the last five games and the home support were optimistic that their side could perform an incredible Houdini-like escapes, the bookies making Trinity the slight favourites with a two-point handicap on the coupon.
The important first try came from the Castleford Tigers when Liam Watts tapped back a Jacob Miller cross-field kick into the hands of Charbel Tasipale who rammed it into the ground, just clipping the line and satisfying the video referee. Gareth Widdop added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
A moment of luck seemed to have edged Wakefield back into the game when a Luke Gale grubber ricocheted off a Tigers defender and was grounded by Josh Griffin. But the video referee spotted an offside Matty Ashurst lurking near the try scorer and scrubbed the score.
An outrageous dummy from Max Jowitt, running the angle after some fast hands from Wakefield, saw the Trinity man slide over to score a metre in from the right touchline. Jowitt slid his conversion just wide of the sticks, the home side still two behind on the scoreboard.
On the half hour Trinity hit the front when Griffin crashed the line on his second Trinity debut after David Fifita made all the running down the middle of the field. Jowitt was wide again, a second important kick slid wide.
Tom Lineham spilled a Blake Austin kick on thirty-four minutes and on the fourth tackle Greg Eden ran over the top of two Trinity defenders to stretch for the line and ground by the left corner flag, the lead switching back towards Castleford. This time it was Widdop’s turn to be wide with his kick, it was the nervy and close game that had been expected.
With a minute of the half left, Eden sprinted in down the left-hand side to ground by the corner flag for his second try in five minutes. This time Widdop hit the mark, finally daylight between the two sides with the Tigers 16-8 ahead.
The game was starting to edge away from Wakefield when their defence stepped aside and allowed Alex Foster to waltz over for the fourth try of the night for the visitors after they broke the length of the field.
But Wakefield weren’t done and on fifty-two Griffin got his second as he took a long pass from Gale and went over from ten metres. Gale couldn’t add the conversion, Wakefield still ten adrift.
A late tackle on the kicker from Wakefield gave Widdop the opportunity to push the lead to two converted tries as he crept the ball over the bar with sixteen minutes remaining.
Try as they might, Wakefield couldn’t test the Tigers line further and as the final hooter sounded Greg Eden completed his hat-trick as he stepped through the broken Wakefield defence and improved the angle for Widdop but the Tigers full back was unable to convert, the visitors with a 28-12 win and the crucial two points.
This win, and in Wakefield’s case loss, doesn’t mean the end of it for either side but it does make the journey in the next five rounds much more comfortable for the Castleford side, and more of a panic for Trinity. Both sides have difficult run in’s to come, but it’s certainly ‘advantage Castleford’.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt (T), Senior, Griffin (2T), Lyne, Lineham, Lino, Gale, Bowden, Hood, Whitbread, Ashurst, Pitts, Proctor. Subs: Kay, Fifita, Atoni, Battye. 18th Man: Dagger.
Castleford Tigers: Widdop (2G), Wallis, Broadbent, Turner, Eden (3T), Austin, Miller, Watts, Horne, Lawler, Edwards, Tasipale (T), Westerman. Subs: Griffin, Massey, Matagi, Foster (T). 18th Man: Johnstone.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 4-6, 8-6, 8-10, 8-14, 8-16 : HT: 8-20, 8-22, 12-22, 12-24, 12-28 :FT.
Lead Exchanges: Castleford – Wakefield – Castleford.
Referee: Chris Kendall.