16th September: When Wakefield made the great escape
Richard de la Riviere looks back at what happened in Rugby League over the years on this day: 16th September
Wakefield finalised Super League’s greatest act of escapology by beating Castleford 29-17 in one of the modern era’s most anticipated match-ups on this day in 2006.
Trinity looked doomed until they appointed John Kear, a Challenge Cup-winning coach with Sheffield and Hull, with six games to play. They needed four wins, and approached judgement day with three from five games.
The game drew a capacity crowd of 11,000, which was Belle Vue’s biggest crowd in 31 years, and was played on the fourth anniversary of Wakefield escaping relegation in 2002, a year that saw Huddersfield relegated instead.
Beforehand, Castleford were tenth, with Wakefield a point behind in eleventh. The Catalans were last of the 12 teams, but the new club was exempt from relegation.
A win or a draw would be enough for Terry Matterson’s Tigers, and they sped into a nine-point lead with 26 minutes gone, thanks to Willie Manu and Adam Fletcher tries.
But James Evans scored a fortuitous try to cheer up the home crowd, and, when Jason Demetriou scored another six minutes later, Trinity were 14-11 ahead at half-time.
Eight minutes into the second half, though, Danny Nutley, Castleford’s best player, gave his side the lead again. But they only held it for three minutes until Wakefield captain Monty Betham punished Danny Brough for kicking out on the full by scoring a minute later.
Wakefield never lost the lead that Betham had given them, and added to their tally with Kevin Henderson’s first try of the season. Evans then scored his second of the night as the atmosphere reached fever pitch.
The contrast between Wakefield’s jubilation and Castleford’s despair at the final hooter was stark.
“I feel very, very tired and emotional,” said Kear.
“It’s been a great two months. The players have responded magnificently.
“I feel desperately sorry for Terry Matterson. I think he has done a great job for Cas.”
For Matterson, it looked like his days at the club were numbered, although he did remain in charge.
“That’s the tragedy of promotion and relegation,” said Matterson.
“It’s dreadful. There are livelihoods at stake.”
Aussies booed from the field
The touring Australians were booed from the Fartown pitch as they beat Huddersfield 6-5 on this day in 1963.
According to one British press report: “Punches and kicks were aimed; there were countless head tackles, numerous cautions, and free kicks, but referee Tom Watkinson never got round to what seemed inevitable – sending an Aussie off.”
The Kangaroos’ points came from three Les Johns penalties. Brian Curry had kicked one for Huddersfield before they scored the only try of the game through Ally Ford at the corner.
Had Curry’s goalkicking been more accurate – he only kicked one from eight – the hosts could have enjoyed a convincing win.
Cumbria enjoy success at Wigan
Cumbria set up a winner-takes-all County Championship showdown with Yorkshire after beating Lancashire 27-15 at Wigan’s Central Park ground on this day in 1981.
The Cumbrians fielded four players from Whitehaven, including the captain Arnold ‘Boxer’ Walker, four players from Barrow and three from Workington Town, while Salford, Wakefield, Widnes and St Helens provided one each – the latter two being represented by the fearsome Gorley brothers, Les and Peter.
It was Walker who inspired the visitors with two tries, while both Gorleys and winger Ralph McConnell also crossed.
For the hosts, Test winger Des Drummond scored his third try of the series, with captain Ken Kelly and centre Peter Glynn adding tries.
But the game was marred by the dismissals of hookers Nicky Kiss and Alan McCurrie.
Seven days earlier, as this column reported last week, the White Rose had beaten the Red Rose 21-15, which meant that the result at Wigan left Lancashire with the wooden spoon, while the deciding match between Yorkshire and Cumbria would take place at Whitehaven on 23 September.
Yorkshire make it three in a row
Six years later, Lancashire endured more misery, this time at the hands of Yorkshire.
With Cumbria no longer competing, the competition, which had been rebranded in 1985, was simply called the War of the Roses.
And Yorkshire, having won the stand-alone matches in 1985 and 1986, secured a hat-trick of wins by beating the Red Rose 16-10 at Wigan in front of 9,478 spectators, the best Roses crowd since 1966.
Yorkshire stand-off and captain Ellery Hanley opened the scoring after 15 minutes, combining with Wigan clubmate Andy Goodway to score a 75-yard try that Bradford prop David Hobbs goaled.
Steve Hampson’s try got Lancashire on the board, but a Tony Marchant try, against the run of play halfway through the second half, proved to be the gamebreaker, especially when Lancashire captain Andy Gregory was sin-binned for complaining to the referee John Holdsworth about the try.
And, while a man down, Henderson Gill put the game beyond doubt when he took Andy Mason’s pass to score.
Paul Round pulled a try back to set up an exciting finish, but, even with Chris Burton in the sinbin, Yorkshire held on to hand their coach Peter Fox a third successive triumph over his opposite number Alex Murphy.