Challenge Cup: Dramatic Gareth Gale try sends Featherstone Rovers into sixth round after golden point extra time win over Wakefield Trinity

Gareth Gale sent Featherstone Rovers into the sixth round of the Challenge Cup at the expense of local rivals Wakefield Trinity with a dramatic golden point extra time try.
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The winger went the full length of the pitch in the last minute of the first half of the additional minutes with Wakefield pushing for a winning point themselves after a gruelling contest had ended 10-10.

Two late first half tries from Conor Wynne gave Featherstone a 10-0 lead but second half efforts from Oliver Pratt and Romain Franco, as well as a Mason Lino penalty, got Wakefield level.

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Both sides could not be separated as the game entered golden point extra time, until Gale’s splendid intervention.

Challenge Cup action between loal rivals Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity. Photo credit John Victor.Challenge Cup action between loal rivals Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity. Photo credit John Victor.
Challenge Cup action between loal rivals Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity. Photo credit John Victor.

The pair had not met competitively since the 1998 First Division Grand Final in which Wakefield triumphed 24-22 to secure their place in Super League.

That is where they stayed until their relegation at the end of last season, while Fev never made it to the top table. That was despite the now Wakefield head coach Daryl Powell’s best efforts, in which he led them to three consecutive Championship league leaders’ shields without ever tasting promotion.

The 26 year wait was worth it.

Powell’s new-look Trinity side had made a confident start to 2024 with five wins out of five before today - even making it to the semi-finals of the 1895 Cup - but he acknowledged this would be the “stiffest test” yet.

The Millennium Stadium, home of Featherstone Rovers.The Millennium Stadium, home of Featherstone Rovers.
The Millennium Stadium, home of Featherstone Rovers.
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And while Rovers were certainly a stern opponent for Wakefield, as it proved, both sides had to deal with the atrocious weather conditions. Persistent rain in West Yorkshire had forced a mid-morning inspection of the Millennium Stadium pitch. And although it was deemed playable, it turned into a mud bath within the first few minutes, with Fev’s white and Wakefield’s blue shirts caked in brown sludge.

A couple of early high kicks from the returning Lino - one of two changes to the starting 13 from last Saturday’s 1895 Cup quarter final win against Barrow Raiders - tested Caleb Aekins but Featherstone got to grips with, and adjusted to, the conditions better, forcing the visitors deep into their own half with a couple of goal-line dropouts and repeated sets.

Gadwin Springer, making his 150th career appearance, assisted his side with this thanks to some bruising runs through the middle.

When Trinity did look to spring forward, they were their own worst enemy. A delightful crossfield kick from Lino found Lachlan Walmsley - who had joy here with Halifax Panthers practically a year ago the day in the same famous knockout competition - but after he was tackled, Pratt knocked on and a scuffle ensued.

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Renouf Atoni, scorer of two tries in that 30-12 victory last weekend, was sent to the sin bin for his troubles, as was Featherstone’s Brad England.

A couple of exciting runs from the lively Pratt then caused problems for Fev, whose defence did well to prevent Liam Hood from touching down.

But Rovers, deservedly, went in front when Wynne was sent over after a great Caleb Aekins pass, leading to the home fans claiming, “There’s only one team in Wakefield.”

And, minutes later, it was a carbon copy as the centre grabbed his second just before the hooter.

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Powell, who had insisted that derbies like this one are “crucial to rugby league”, clearly uttered some strong words of wisdom to his players at the interval as they came out inspired in the second half with Pratt going over in exactly the same spot as Wynne.

Romain Franco then sped over after great work from Max Jowitt and Lino.

Jowitt was unsuccessful at both conversion attempts but Lino’s penalty 15 minutes from time levelled the game up at 10-10.

Wakefield were seemingly in the ascendancy but Rovers defended stoutly to prevent any further scores as the hooter sounded to signal golden point extra time.

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Tomas Lacans tried an audacious drop goal attempt as both sides seemed to want to get the game over with.

But when Trinity tried to force it to the right, Gale intercepted and could not be caught, as Rovers secured their spot in Monday evening’s sixth round draw, where the Super League teams will enter.

Featherstone: Aekins, Wacokecoke, Hardcastle, Wynne, Gale, Bowes, Lacans, Springer, Jones, Bussey, Day, England, Addy

Interchanges: Kamano, Albert, Fishwick, Tomlinson

Tries: Wynne (2), Gale

Conversions: Lacans

Wakefield: Jowitt, Franco, Griffin, Pratt, Walmsley, Gale, Lino, Bowden, Hood, Atoni, Ashurst, Pitts, Doyle

Interchanges: Uele, Vagana, Smith, Booth

Tries: Pratt, Franco

Penalties: Lino