CASTLEFORD TIGERS retained the Adam Watene Trophy with a 12th successive win over Wakefield Trinity last night, but what began a procession ended a thriller.
Tigers seemed to be in total command when they led 22-0 inside 23 minutes and 22-4 at the break, but the spirited visitors scored four second half tries to make it 28-26 and were inches away from completing an astonishing fightback in the final moments.
Both teams have been ravaged by injury and the situation got worse with Tigers’ Jesse Sene-Lefao and Joe Arundel, of Trinity, both going off after being hurt in the act of scoring.
Cas also lost Oliver Holmes and several others, on both sides, were hobbling by the end, including Trinity’s David Fifita who had a calf problem.
Cory Aston came in for his Tigers – and Super League – debut and was influential when the hosts built their big early lead, scoring a try, being involved in a couple of others and defending strongly.
With Jacob Miller and Danny Brough both on the casualty list, former Tigers stand-off Ben Reynolds made his first appearance for Trinity and had a fine second half as the visitors roared back.
Mason Caton-Brown came straight in on Trinity’s left-wing, two days after joining the club and bagged a brace.
The opening quarter was all Tigers as they built what seemed to be an invincible lead. On 11 minutes Jake Trueman kicked towards Caton-Brown, he couldn’t take it and James Clare reacted quickly to go over.
Five minutes later Reece Lyne knocked-on playing the ball deep in Wakefield territory and following the scrum Sene-Lefao smashed his way over from Liam Watts’ pass.
From the restart Aston made a clean break and though he was brought down by Caton-Brown, Cas kept the pressure on, Mike McMeeken offloaded to Greg Minikin and he sent Clare over.
Four minutes after that, Aston capped his debut with a try when he raced over from Daniel Smith’s pass and only a last-ditch tackle by Max Jowitt – which forced Greg Eden to lose possession as he attempted to touch down – prevented Cas going further in front.
Wakefield did manage to get points on the board before the interval. McMeeken knocked-on near his own line and, following the scrum, Caton-Brown dived over from Jowitt’s long pass. Peter Mata’utia converted Tigers’ first three tries, but missed with two penalties in the final three minutes of the half.
Minikin stepped over, from Mata’utia’s pass, after back-to-back drop outs six minutes into the second period.
Almost immediately, McMeeken held Reynolds up over the line, video referee Ben Thaler confirming to original no-try decision, but Caton-Brown pulled a try back with a fine take from Ryan Hampshire’s kick on the next play. Mata’utia booted a penalty to make it 28-8 and it seemed to be game over, but Arundel cut the gap and then Reyniolds crossed off good work by Jowitt.
Hampshire converted both and suddenly the gap was down to eight with 11 minutes left. On 72 minutes Reynolds kicked to Cas’ left, Eden parried the ball to Tinirau Arona and he went over for a try which Hampshire improved off the touchline.
Trinity had one last chance to win it after Reynolds charged down Aston’s kick, but Ben Jones-Bishop was tackled into touch by Mata’utia just short.
Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia, Clare, Minikin, Shenton, Eden, Trueman, Aston, Watts, Milner, Sene-Lefao, Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Subs Moors, Clark, O’Neill, Smith.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Arundel, Caton-Brown, Reynolds, Hampshire, Fifita, Wood, Arona, Ashurst, Kirmond, Crowther. Subs Pauli, Kopczak, King, Hirst.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).