Wakefield Wildcats came up agonisingly short after almost pulling off an amazing comeback against play-offs bound Castleford Tigers in a thrilling local derby at the Mend-A-Hose jungle.
Trailing 22-0 after half-an-hour, James Webster’s men made a real fight of it and were only edged out 26-22 after a spirited showing.
The narrow defeat ended the Wildcats’ hopes of reaching the end of season play-off themselves, while Castleford went back up to second in the table and can still finish top. But there were plenty of positives for coach Webster to take from the way his side made the hosts sweat all the way to the final hooter.
It was not so positive to begin with as Wakefield bombed the first chance to score with Pita Godinet throwing out a wild pass that went to ground with the home defence stretched following Paul Sykes’ break.
Within two minutes the Wildcats’ defence was then found wanting as Luke Dorn’s dummy opened them up to put Cas ahead. The first of three first half conversions from Marc Sneyd made it 6-0.
Nathan Massey came close to another score soon after when held up over the line, but on 15 minutes there was no stopping James Clare as he brushed off Reece Lyne to finish off a move started by a 20 metre tap-out from Dorn and carried on by Daryl Clark.
Clare made another break soon after only to see his pass inside go to ground to the visitors’ relief. Michael Shenton also narrowly failed to reach a Sneyd grubber kick over the line.
However, Clare did grab the hosts’ third try with a strong finish in the corner after taking Clark’s pass.
Kirk Dixon then scored in the other corner, again finishing well following Clark’s long pass and Sneyd’s goal made it 22-0.
However, an error from the restart gifted the Wildcats possession in the home half and they took full advantage with Gilmour - on loan from the Tigers - going over from Ali Lauitiiti’s pass.
Paul Sykes goaled then Wakefield scored again from the next set when Dixon dropped Tim Smith’s high kick and Chris Riley dropped on the ball over the line.
The visitors almost edged closer in the opening minute of the second half as Lyne put a foot in touch going for the line in the corner.
Clark went close at the other end when chasing his own grubber kick into in the in-goal area.
But it was stalemate for a while and tempers started fraying as referee James Child struggled to keep a lid on tensions and added to the frustrations with some inconsistent decisions.
Both sides had players warned and several injuries hit the Tigers, a particularly nasty one to Garreth Carvell, who had to be stretchered off and taken straight to hospital.
The deadlock was finally broken just past the hour mark when a Sneyd high ball was not dealt with by Wakefield winger Chris Riley and centre Gilmour and Jake Webster pounced to score a try that went unconverted by Sneyd.
If Cas thought this would break the Wakefield spirit they were wrong as within six minutes they bounced back, Scott Anderson pouncing on Matt Wildie’s grubber kick into the in-goal area to score his first try for the club.
Sykes added the conversion and four minutes later was on target again from the touchline after another Wildcats try, scored this time by Owen, who drove over strongly on the right wing.
With just four points in it now it was nip and tuck in the final 10 minutes and pandemonium broke out on a sixth tackle play when Wakefield kept the ball alive against the odds several times only to be eventually foiled by the Tigers’ scrambling defence near their own line.
Cas finally relieved the pressure through an excellent Sneyd kick which brought a knock-on near the Wildcats line although they could not round off their win as Lynch lost the ball inches off the try-line.
It was a relief for the home fans when the hooter went and Wakefield’s brave resistance was finally ended.
Scorers - Castleford: Tries Dorn, Clare 2, Dixon, Webster; goals Sneyd 3. Wakefield: Tries Gilmour, Riley, Anderson, Owen; goals Smith 3.
Castleford: Dorn; Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Clare; Sneyd, Finn; Lynch, Clark, Jewitt, Holmes, Hauraki, Massey. Subs: Milner, Mariano, Wheeldon, Carvell.
Wakefield: Sykes; Owen, Gilmour, Lyne, Riley; Godinet, Smith; Anderson, McShane, Raleigh, Washbrook, Molloy, Smith. Subs: Lauitiiti, Wildie, Tautai, Annakin.
Referee: James Child.