Analysis: How Castleford Tigers held on for derby victory despite Wakefield Trinity's spirited fightback
Had the United States’ Founding Father Benjamin Franklin been around today, he could have added a third to his list of life’s certainties, alongside death and taxes: Castleford Tigers beating Wakefield Trinity.
Tigers’ 23-18 victory on a soggy night at the Jungle extended their dominant run to 16 successive games against their nearest rivals, but Trinity prised eight Castleford fingers and a thumb off the Adam Watene Trophy.
Having trailed 23-6 early in the second half, the visitors turned a routine defeat into a thrilling one, coming within a whisker of snatching the spoils right at the death.
In the final seconds Tigers’ frantic defence managed to scramble a kick dead as Wakefield attackers closed in and the final hooter sounded before the drop out could be taken.
It was a tremendous response from Wakefield, who - in the second half - played with spirit, commitment and some flair.
The opening period was a complete contrast as Tigers dominated, with and without the ball and thoroughly deserved their 13-point interval lead.
Their execution was first class and they were too powerful up the middle for Trinity, who were forced into a series of mistakes.
Castleford’s third successive win was welcome relief for their fans, who had seen Tigers lose all six home games since spectators were allowed back into stadiums three months ago.
It also keeps alive their hopes of climbing a couple of places into Betfred Super League’s all-important top-six.
Tigers might have been expected to suffer a hangover from the epic win at St Helens - their first there in the summer era - nine days earlier, but in the opening 40 minutes that seemed to have inspired rather than drained them.
Castleford were relentless and clinical on attack and, other than one lapse from a kick, dominant defensively.
Halves Gareth O’Brien and Danny Richardson controlled matters and linked well with full-back Niall Evalds, on the back of a powerful effort up front, particularly from Nathan Massey Oliver Holmes and Jesse Sene-Lefao.
Castleford were 12-0 ahead after as many minutes, through tries by Greg Eden and Holmes - both of which Richardson converted - and could have been further in front but for a superb effort by Mason Lino and Lee Kershaw to prevent Paul McShane getting the ball down over Wakefield’s line.
Tinirau Arona pulled a try back from Brad Walker’s grubber, but Richardson booted a penalty and Derrell Olpherts scored the hosts’ third try from a lovely pass by Evalds.
It was 12 on 12 at that stage, number sevens Richardson and Lino having been sin-binned following a set-to.
Richardson had the smarts to boot a drop goal in the final moments of the half and it seemed to be game over when Eden crossed again soon after the resumption.
But then Wakefield stepped up a gear and were the better team over the final half an hour.
Playing with belief and spirit, they began to force mistakes and applied pressure for long spells, though Cas did waste a couple of chances, particularly when Evalds spilled Richardson’s pass with a clear run to the line.
Wakefield’s pack, led by Dave Fifita and Matty Ashurst, got on the front foot, the halves kicked well and there were some strong runs out of backfield, by Kershaw in particular. Winger-turned-hooker Liam Kay also did well.
Tom Johnstone scored a terrific solo try from a kick by Jacob Miller and then Kershaw crossed after Eden fumbled when Lino put boot to ball. Lino converted both and in the end Tigers were fortunate to hang on.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Turner, Eden, O’Brien, Richardson, Griffin, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Subs Watts, Blair, Hepi, Matagi.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt, Kershaw, Arundel, Senior, Johnstone, Miller, Lino, Fifita, B Walker, Arona, Ashurst, Pitts, Tanginoa. Subs Kay, Battye, Batchelor, Green.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).