Game number 18 of a potential losing streak was probably the most vital of all the derby matches Wakefield Trinity could have gone into, given their precarious position at the bottom of the Super League table.
It was certainly the one they needed to win. And they did so with a performance that they had been hiding from us for much of this season, comprehensively outplaying their hosts and never being in serious danger of losing from the moment Liam Hood scored their first try, when he went for the line from dummy-half and shrugged off the tackle of George Griffin.
Hood had looked in the warm-up as though he had suffered an injury that might have kept him out of the game. But instead he retained his place in the starting squad and his try nicely illustrated the point that one of these teams was completely up for the game and one of them wasn’t.
Castleford have struggled recently with the absence of Jake Trueman, while Gareth O’Brien and Niall Evalds were also missing from their spine. Ultimately the loss of those influential players was bound to catch up with them and on Friday night that moment finally arrived.
The compensation for Castleford supporters is that it seems certain that Wakefield stand-off Jacob Miller will be moving to the Tigers next season and on Friday night he gave them a foretaste of what could be in store for next season. This is his eighth season at Wakefield since joining them from Hull FC but I can’t honestly remember him having a better game for Wakefield nor showing greater leadership skills as the club captain. His massive tackle on Adam Milner after just five minutes set the template for his performance over the whole evening.
Five minutes later, Bureta Faraimo caught a Trinity bomb and was pushed into touch by Jay Pitts, Lee Gaskell and Lewis Murphy. At that point I suspect that the Castleford fans standing in the Wheldon Road end would have started to have misgivings about what might happen in the next 70 minutes. And their worst fears came true.
If the Tigers’ supporters felt apprehensive at that point, their mood would have reflected that of their coach Lee Radford.
“From the off, we weren’t at it,” he said. “The acid test in a Rugby League game is the opening exchanges and we failed miserably in that department.”
Miller, with his own performance, inspired his team-mates and they responded to a man, which did justice to the memory of Adam Watene, who played for both clubs before dying tragically in the gymnasium in 2008. It seems extraordinary to think that it was so long ago.
One player who must have caught everyone’s eye in was Lewis Murphy, who I first saw playing for Wakefield in their Boxing Day game against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley. Murphy had an unhappy Super League debut earlier this year but since then he has come on in leaps and bounds. On Friday he out-jumped Faraimo for his first try, before saving a try at the other end when the video-referee turned down Faraimo’s touchdown when Murphy just managed to push him onto the touchline.
Murphy then scored a wonderful try in the second half after Miller picked up a Danny Richardson grubber and fed his winger, who beat Jake Mamo on the outside in a thrilling run to the line, touching down in front of the delighted Wakefield supporters. That was just the sort of long-distance try, scored by a winger, that we all like to see. Wakefield might be losing Tom Johnstone to the Catalans Dragons at the end of the season, but in Murphy they have a wonderful replacement.
The Tigers, for their part, missed a wonderful opportunity to consolidate their place in the top six. I would go so far as to say that a victory on Friday night would probably have sealed a playoff place. Instead they now have a posse of other teams snapping at their heels and their next game is away at St Helens.
Wakefield will face Catalans Dragons at home this week, while their relegation rivals Toulouse travel to Hull Kingston Rovers.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.