Wakefield Trinity 24 Castleford Tigers 25: Luke keeps his cool to hand Cas narrowest of wins
LUKE GALE'S drop goal 99 seconds from time completed a stunning Castleford Tigers fightback which took them 10 points clear at the top of Betfred Super League.
A brilliant defensive effort by Trinity restricted Tigers to a second successive tryless half, but Cas turned a 16-0 disadvantage into a two point lead by the 55th minute.
Wakefield went back in front inside the final 10 minutes, but Cas levelled with five to go and then Gale booted a one-pointer to seal a dramatic derby victory.
It was Castleford’s 10th successive Super League win and their seventh straight victory over Wakefield, the fourth of those at Beaumont Legal Stadium, Belle Vue.
Wakefield were excellent in the first 40, rocking Tigers with some powerful defence and making the most of their attacking opportunities.
Tigers looked out of sorts, but were transformed after the break, when Wakefield made some costly errors.
Trinity hit the front with a spectacular long-range touchdown after nine minutes. Jesse Sene-Lefao passed to Dean Hadley close to Wakefield’s line and the on-loan Hull man – who has been an outstanding addition for Trinity – made a few metres before slipping the ball to Ben Jones-Bishop. His pace did the rest for his 17th try in 18 games this season.
Liam Finn converted and took the two soon afterwards, when Adam Milner, who later went off with a foot injury, was penalised for holding down Tinirau Arona, whose powerful runs were a feature of Wakefield’s strong start.
On 25 minutes Gale’s pass came off Jones-Bishop, was picked up by Zak Hardaker and he sent Greg Eden over. Referee Chris Kendall thought it was a try, but video referee Phil Bentham disagreed, deciding Eden had obstructed the Wakefield man. Just three minutes later Scott Grix’s spring-heeled break set up field position for Kyle Wood to score from acting-half.
Finn improved that and then, when Cas were penalised for the seventh time in the half – for offside on their own line – extended the advantage with another goal.
The first half penalty count was 7-2 in Wakefield’s favour and it was 6-2 for Cas after the break. Tigers got the start they needed to the second half when Eden scorched almost the full length of the field, off Joe Arundel’s error, just two minutes after the restart for his 32nd Super League try of the campaign.
Five minutes after that Grix spilled Gale’s high kick and Grant Millington punished the error by going over from close-range and the visitors were in front on 55 minutes.
Nathan Massey sliced into space and though Grix halted him, Cas moved the ball wide, Roberts’ terrific pass found Jake Webster, he supplied Greg Minikin and the winger sent Mike McMeeken over, Gale’s third goal making it 18-16.
Trinity’s first attack of the second half ended with Keegan Hirst knocking on. The second, on 70 minutes, produced a try. David Fifita, who made a shock return from injury, despite not being named in the initial 19-man squad, barged over from a few metres out. Bentham confirmed Kendall’s initial decision of a try and Finn booted the conversion. In the set from the restart Gadwin Springer was penalised for interference and Finn booted his sixth goal to make it 24-18 with seven minutes left.
But then Bill Tupou dropped the short restart, Webster crossed from Roberts’ pass and Gale squared things with the conversion.
A Fifita high tackle gave Cas field position for the drop goal and they were penalised again for offside from the restart and on the final play so Trinity had no opportunity to go for a one-pointer of their own.
Meanwhile, Trinity forward Mikey Sio has joined Kingstone Press Championship side Halifax on a month’s loan, with an option for the deal to be extended until the end of the season.
Wakefield Trinity: Grix, Jones-Bishop, Arundel, Tupou, Caton-Brown, Williams, Finn, Walker, Wood, Huby, Ashurst, Hadley, Arona. Subs: Annakin, Hirst, England, Fifita.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker, Minikin, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Roberts, Gale, Massey, McShane, Millington, Sene-Lefao, McMeeken, Milner. Subs: Lynch, Springer, Patrick, Foster.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).