IF there is another “Million Pound” relegation match at the end of this season, Castleford Tigers will certainly not be involved in it.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, on the other hand – who lost captain Danny Kirmond to a quad injury inside the opening 10 minutes yesterday – could well find themselves in such a dire and fraught situation once again.
They showed flashes yesterday to suggest they will not be dragged into the dogfight, but they were just that – flashes.
Their football was too intermittent and Richard Agar’s side have now lost five successive games.
Sitting just four points away from the drop zone they will watch on nervously to see what happens with bottom-placed Bradford Bulls’ appeal against their six-point deduction for entering administration.
Castleford – who famously lost that relegation decider against fierce rivals Wakefield here at Belle Vue in 2006 – are now, instead, fighting at the other end of the table.
They recovered from last week’s agonising last-minute loss against leaders St Helens to post their seventh league win of the season although, admittedly, this derby triumph was never as comfortable as many expected.
It was not until a 62nd-minute try from Liam Finn, the wily scrum-half excelling in his second chance at Super League fully 10 years after last playing at this level with Wakefield, that the Tigers could truly settle.
Marc Sneyd’s fourth conversion put Daryl Powell’s side 32-20 up and, with imperious props Craig Huby and Andy Lynch back on to solidify their spine, they safely secured the points.
So, Castleford, who also had James Clare impressing in the winger’s new role of full-back and Justin Carney his usual barnstorming self, host Warrington Wolves on Monday knowing they remain in touching distance of the summit.
Wakefield had welcomed back Dean Collis and Reece Lyne from injury while full-back Richard Mathers was recalled but employed, instead, as a winger to try and shore up their problematic wide defence.
It worked to a degree and Collis and Lyne both offered plenty of strike threat, but Wakefield were too soft in the middle.
The ease with which Carney swatted off Jarrod Sammut to score their first try in the fourth minute pointed towards it being a long afternoon for Agar’s side.
When a simple Lynch pass near halfway unleashed Grant Millington striding forward seven minutes later for Daryl Clark to go over between the posts, you sensed it could have been one of the most lopsided derbies of recent years.
However, Wakefield were not discouraged. They had already forced one drop out after Paul Sykes had followed up his own high kick to batter Richard Owen back behind his own line. Although that came to nothing, Trinity did profit when Paul McShane’s clever kick garnered another drop-out.
It was the ex-Leeds Rhinos hooker himself who dummied over close to the line for Sammut to bring it back to 10-6 after 15 minutes.
Every time they made ground, though, they swiftly lost it again.
Castleford centre Michael Channing made inroads before Finn fired a pass for Owen to easily get on the outside of Lyne and then Mathers at the corner.
Nick Scruton tried firing his team-mates up, the Trinity prop delivering a couple of crunching hits, the first on the unfortunate Owen.
It was a touch of good fortune, though, that saw his side briefly get back into the contest.
Sykes’s pass to Matt Ryan was clearly knocked down by the Australian second-row but Phil Bentham waved on so Sammut quickly pounced and played a neat one-two with Lyne to cross in the 29th minute.
He improved his own try to make it 14-12 only to witness his colleagues implode again twice before the break.
A lazy high tackle from Richard Moore on Channing gifted position for Weller Hauraki to float out a lovely pass for Owen’s second and then, seconds before the interval, a powerful run from the impressive Oliver Holmes ruptured their defence once more and space opened up for Wheeldon to score his first try since joining from London Broncos.
Sneyd added the extras to both but, typically, Wakefield came back early in the second period when Ryan’s grubber bounced wickedly for Lyne to speed in.
Sammut missed an easy conversion attempt and did so again when he touched down himself for his second try in the 48th minute after Owen fumbled his high kick.
Nevertheless, the hosts were just 26-20 behind at that point and, when Powell’s men messed up a raft of stellar opportunities, you sensed they might make them pay. However, after Pita Godinet’s high tackle on Carney, they finally got over when Finn latched onto Sneyd’s kick.
Sneyd slotted a drop goal and Castleford added some gloss with both Clark and Wheeldon adding their second tries late on.
It was, then, left to captain Michael Shenton to lift the Adam Watene Trophy, the silverware held in memory of the late prop who served both clubs so well before his untimely death in 2008.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Sammut; Riley, Collis, Lyne, Mathers; Sykes, Siejka; Anderson, McShane, Scruton, Kirmond, Ryan, Washrbook. Substitutes: Godinet, Moore, Annakin, Smith.
Castleford Tigers: Clare; Owen, Channing, Shenton, Carney; Sneyd, Finn; Lynch,Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington. Substitutes: Milner, Boyle, Mariano, Wheeldon.
Referee: P Bentham (Warrington)