Tonight's game at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle was billed as the inauguration of the Castleford Tigers as the 2017 League Leaders. The League Leaders trophy was waiting in the wings to be presented in the case of a draw or victory for the home side, but Trinity were in town and determined to spoil the party, just as they had last week when the Rhinos visited Wakefield last week.
The last time that the two sides met it was the Tigers who recorded a 25-24 victory, thanks to a late Luke Gale drop goal, but in the early season meeting at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle it was a far more comfortable 42-24 win.
The bookies had the Tigers as clear favourites but would nerves get the best of them and allow Trinity to postpone their moment of glory.
Trinity set out their stall early on when they took a third minute opportunity to kick a penalty goal and Liam Finn gave his side a two point lead.
The first try game on nine minutes thanks to Zak Hardaker who took a Ben Roberts pass, stepped off his right foot, and went over for the four pointer. Luke Gale added the extras for 6-2. But five minutes later Wakefield showed that they weren’t going to lie down when Ben Jones-Bishop found space wide right on the overlap to take a Rhys Lyne pass and scamper over. Finn failed to add the extras from wide and the scored were level.
On eighteen it was the Tigers again when Mike McMeeken stretched an arm in the tackle to ground the point of the ball on the line. Referee Child refereed the decision to the video referee as a ‘NO TRY’ but was overruled. Gale was again accurate with the boot.
On thirty-one a break and sensational one handed offload from Hardaker found a stooping Jake Webster to pick the ball up off his bootlaces and step past the last defender and scamper in. Gale kicked the two for 18-6 and the party was already underway on the terraces.
On thirty-eight a ball strip from Michael Shenton gave Wakefield an extra six in the Tigers twenty and two tackles in Mason Caton-Brown went from acting half-back to burrow over the line to score. Liam Finn failed to add the extras leaving his side 18-10 down at the break.
On forty-seven it was Trinity who drew first blood in the second half when Danny Kirmond shrugged off a tackle and jinked past three tacklers to dive over. Finn slid the extra two inside the far upright and the Tigers lead was down to two points.
Just five minutes had passed when Gale put in a superb long pass to Greg Eden for the Tigers winger to round the Wakefield defence and score. Gale missed the conversion and the margin was one converted try.
Trinity put the kick-off out on the full and from the resulting penalty Webster picked up a knocked-on ball, lowered his centre of gravity and dove over. Gale kicked from the touchline for a 28-16 lead.
Websters hat-trick came on sixty-two minutes when a Jowitt knock-on gave the Tigers possession and they moved the ball right for the centre to go through a gap to score. Gale added the extras and with eighteen minutes left the Tigers were eighteen points ahead.
Gale kicked a sixty-fourth minute drop-goal to put the result beyond doubt and secure the League Leaders shield.
Websters fourth try of the night came on sixty-nine this time taking a Mike McMeeken pass to roll over the Trinity defenders to score. Gale missed with the boot but it didn’t matter as the champagne corks were popping all around Castleford.
As the Tigers celebrated Max Jowitt grabbed a Trinity try on seventy-two but Castleford could be forgiven for having their minds elsewhere. Finn again failed to convert. But three minutes later and Zak Hardaker grabbed his second of the night as Castleford broke through the forty barrier. As Gale added the conversion it was 45-20.
The Castleford Tigers completed the job that coach Powell has tasked them with a despite a couple of blips they kept their cool, took the two points, and ensured that they will finish at the top of the pile in 2017. Trinity put up some patchy resistance but in the end the Tigers were way too strong and deserved the win and all that it brings. It’s the first time in their ninety-one year history that they’ve finished at the top of the pile and there will be a big party in Castleford tonight.
Tigers: Hardaker (2T), Minikin, Webster (4T), Shenton, Eden (T), Roberts, Gale (6G, DG), Millington, McShane, Sene-Lefeo, Holmes, McMeeken (T), Massey. Subs: Milner, Lynch, Foster, Moors.
Trinity: Jowitt, Jones-Bishop (T), Lyne, Caton-Brown (T), Tupou, Miller, Finn (2G), Fifita, Hadley, England, Ashurst, Kirmond (T), Arona. Subs: Williams, Huby, Annakin, Hirst.
Referee: James Child.