CASTLEFORD TIGERS are two results away from lifting the First Utility Super League Leaders’ Shield after yesterday’s derby win over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Castleford, who led 22-0 after 33 minutes, climbed to second place in the table and are two points behind St Helens, with a superior points difference.
This means if St Helens lose their final game of the regular season at Huddersfield Giants, scheduled for Friday night, Castleford will face Catalan Dragons in Perpignan the following afternoon knowing a win would secure pole position.
“It could be a special opportunity,” Castleford coach Daryl Powell reflected.
“Going away to Catalan is a tough game and pretty much everybody has struggled over there.
“It is going to take a big effort from us to go and win that game, but to have that opportunity is a special thing for us, I think.
“Nobody would have thought we would go down to the last game of the season with a chance of winning the League Leaders’ Shield.
“It has been a special effort from all the players to give us that chance.”
Castleford will need to improve after Wakefield were the better team for the final 50 minutes yesterday.
Luke Dorn glided over for the opening try, from Liam Finn’s pass, after six minutes and six minutes later Daryl Clark surprised Wakefield’s defence with a quick 20-metre restart after Tim Smith’s kick had run dead.
The Warrington-bound hooker made it over half-way before supplying winger James Clare and he proved too quick for the cover.
Clare, who is only in the side because of an injury to Justin Carney, added a second from close range and then Kirk Dixon slipped out of Chris Riley’s tackle for Tigers’ fourth try on 33, with Marc Sneyd adding his third goal.
But Castleford lost the ball from the restart and that proved a turning point in the game.
Lee Gilmour, who is on loan at Wakefield from Castleford, crossed from Ali Lauitiiti’s pass and then Chris Riley scored after Dixon had dropped Tim Smith’s kick.
Castleford had to hang on desperately in the third quarter as Reece Lyne put a foot in touch before getting the ball down, Andy Raleigh was grounded just short and Weller Hauraki’s stunning tackle denied Gilmour.
The home team seemed to have sealed victory on 66 minutes when Sneyd kicked to the corner, Gilmour and Riley collided and Jake Webster touched down. But Scott Anderson pulled a try back from Matty Wildie’s kick and and then Richard Owen got over at the corner against his former club, Sykes’s third conversion cutting the gap to just four points and leaving Tigers hanging on desperately.
Powell said: “For half an hour we looked like a team in play-off mode, then for 50 we just looked absolutely terrible.
“The game got a bit frantic and we got hot heats.
“I am delighted we got the two points, but from a performance point of view we were miles off in the second half.”
James Webster, the Wakefield coach, admitted his team were “outplayed” in the first 30 minutes, but felt missed chances were costly in the end.
He said: “Trying hard only gives you a chance to win a game. Execution and finishing is what seals victories.
“We created four or five chances we weren’t able to finish and that was probably the difference,” he said.
Castleford forward Garreth Carvell needed hospital treatment on his neck after a heavy tackle in the second half.
“He’s got pins and needs down his arms,” Castleford coach Powell said. “He didn’t look too good but fingers crossed he’ll be alright.”
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Clare, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Jewitt, Holmes, Hauraki, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Mariano, Wheeldon, Carvell.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Sykes, Owen, Gilmour, Lyne, Riley, Godinet, T Smith, Anderson, McShane, Raleigh, Washbrook, Molloy, D Smith. Substitutes: Lauitiiti, Wildie, Tautai, Annakin.
Referee: J Child (Batley).