Wakefield Trinity 12 Castleford Tigers 18: Castleford back to winning ways - at a cost
Daryl Powell’s side had not lost in their last 14 meetings versus their derby rivals and - after some brilliance from Pete Mata’utia and despite Wakefield’s desperate late push - that statistic now reads 15.
How Castleford needed this victory in particular; they had lost their last four Super League games and urgently needed to rediscover some form with the Challenge Cup final looming in a little over four weeks.
Admittedly, this was far from pretty but, with impressive inputs from prop Liam Watts and Nathan Massey’s usual energy, they managed to get the job done on a ground where they have not fallen since 2013.
It came at a cost, though, with both sides losing players to worrying knee injuries.
Just as Wakefield saw Tom Johnstone return after eight weeks of concussions issues, they lost the winger’s centre partner Bill Tupou who was stretchered off with a serious-looking injury with just 13 seconds remaining of the first half.
Just moments before the medical team reached the tunnel, Castleford’s Gareth O’Brien had hobbled down it on crutches, too, the scrum-half having limped off in the 37th minute with a knee issue of his own.
Both injuries came in innocuous circumstances; O’Brien was challenged by Eddie Battye as he kicked downfield but it was more the manner in which he landed that seemed to cause the injury rather than an illegal tackle.
The half-back, who has had such rotten luck with injuries during his time at Castleford, must immediately be worried about his chances of appearing at Wembley.
Tupou, meanwhile, was stretching for a pass that went behind him when he immediately fell clutching his knee.
It was only his fifth game back following injury and his return had coincided with Trinity finally ending a long losing run, winning three of their last four matches.
The unfortunate injuries summed up what had been a scrappy and frustrating first period for both sides, Castleford narrowly ahead 10-6 courtesy of George Griffin and Jordan Turner tries and a Danny Richardson conversion.
Both sides started with plenty of purpose and attacking intent but both lacked finesse at crucial times and some of the kicking was badly off-cue.
Wakefield captain Jacob Miller slipped Matty Ashurst through for the first major chance but he was well wrapped up by Niall Evalds.
There was plenty of spilled ball, too, perhaps as the searing heat played its part.
When Richardson did finally slide in a good grubber in the 19th minute, iut forced a drop-out which led to the game’s opening try, Castleford hooker Paul McShane immediately dabbing in another good kick in the next set for Griffin to pounce.
Richardson converted but, after Reece Lyne’s fine run had dissected his side up the middle, Wakefield soon responded.
Michael Shenton failed to negate a crossfield kick and, like Castleford before, Trinity scored in the set from the resulting drop-out.
Kelepi Tanginoa’s late offload got them going, Dave Fifita - who impressed on his 100th Super League appearance - got them closer still and then it was Miller who put on a big step to elude McShane, Mason Lino improving the stand-off’s try.
Prop Liam Watts gave Castleford a timely lift off the bench, not only with his offloading ability but direct running, carrying on where Suaia Matagi and Nathan Massey had left off.
But it was Max Jowitt’s erroneous kick out on the full that led to Tigers taking the lead again in the 36th minute.
From there, Samoan centre Mata’utia made a brilliant angled run infield, weaving across and beating defenders before picking out a perfect pass for Jordan Turner to race over on the opposite flank, bumping Jowitt off in the process.
In the second period, Castleford crucially scored first.
After Joe Arundel had done wonderfully to deny Derrell Olpherts with a try-saving tackle, Jowitt made a hash of Richardson’s grubber and gifted 34-year-old Shenton the easiest try of the Tigers captain’s long career.
On the hour mark, Mata’utia - whose 2022 move to Warrington Wolves was announced yesterday - did well to force his way over for Castleford’s fourth try.
However, Richardson missed the conversion attempt for the third successive time to still leave Wakefield with a chance.
After both Tanginoa and Miller failed to gather Joe Westerman’s offload to see a try go begging between the posts, soon after, they did get things right, Miller collecting Lino’s well-placed grubber in the same spot in the 68th minute.
Lino improved to leave Chris Chester’s side trailing just 18-12 but - as had been their issue for much of the night - they had no killer touch to drag their rivals back to parity.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt; Kershaw, Lyne, Tupou, Johnstone; Miller, Lino; Arona, B Walker, Tanginoa, Pitts, Ashurst, Westerman. Substitutes: Fifita, K Wood, Battye, Arundel.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds; Olpherts, Shenton, Mata’utia, Turner; O’Brien, Richardson; Griffin, McShane, Matagi, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Substitutes: Watts, Foster, Smith, Qareqare.
Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan).