Matterson likely to go as Cas face big breakup

Wakefield's triumph in Super League's relegation showdown has severe repercussions for the vanquished
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The Independent Online

Super League's great survivors have done it again, dragging themselves back from the brink in their last game to send their neighbours down instead.

A match of almost unbearable tension, in front of Belle Vue's first full house for decades, saw mission accomplished by the Wildcats as they won 29-17. It was the fourth victory in the six games of John Kear's rescue bid.

That meant heartbreak for Castleford, promoted last year and twice this season confident that they had done enough to stay up. Perhaps, in the end, that was the difference, because Wakefield never had that luxury and thus kept their eyes on the prize right to the very end.

"I'm delighted for the players and the supporters," said Kear amid scenes reminiscent of his Challenge Cup final victories with Sheffield and Hull.

"The board of directors backed us to the hilt and they have got their reward today." Wakefield got the bounce of the ball and the benefit of a couple of decisions, but that is often the case when something is achieved against the odds.

From 11-2 down on the half-hour, they hit back with a fluke try when Monty Betham's fly-hack happened to find James Evans and another by Jason Demetriou that should have been disallowed for David Solomona's knock-on at the previous play of the ball.

On such fine margins the futures of clubs and the livelihoods of players and other staff depend. It is a cruel necessity, relegation.

Under the circumstances, it was only right that there should be much sympathy for Castleford. If they had been told at the start of the season that they would amass 19 points, they would probably have settled for that on the basis that it would be enough to keep them up.

Now, the team that was so hastily assembled less than a year ago will break up as a shattered club and try to regroup and fight their way back into the division where they feel they belong.

They will probably have to do that without Terry Matterson, who has earned much praise for the way he has coached the team this season. He dropped the heaviest of hints that he will be leaving; equally important is the question of whether they can hang onto young British players like Michael Platt, Michael Shenton and Danny Brough.

It is an embarrassment for the British game that Wakefield should have ensured their safety with a starting 13 containing 12 overseas players. It is Matterson's firm conviction that it is the system of promotion and relegation that is responsible for statistics like that and that the game here will never progress until it is scrapped.

He has support even in the winning camp. "I can't tell you how much I hate relegation. It makes it impossible to plan ahead," said Solomona, Wakefield's star turn who could have taken his pick of leading clubs had they been relegated.

"I've signed on for another two years and I'm happy here. It's something to do with the fans and the players.

"Every player who comes here says that it's the best bunch of blokes they've ever been with."

Wakefield might be a group of roving journeymen drawn from all corners of the rugby league world, but they do not lack passion for their adopted club.

That was visible in Michael Korkidas, the Greek-Australian who is leaving in any event, but who was in tears when they celebrated their survival at the end.

It was that sort of event, with people even perched on the rooftops to see the drama unfold. The last word goes to a supporter making for the exit.

"Castleford shouldn't go down," he said. "And that's from a Wakefield fan."

If he had not been wearing red, white and blue, that would have been obvious enough from his little dance of delight and relief. That is the rhythm of life when you follow the Great Survivors.

Wakefield: Halpenny; Demetriou, Evans, K Henderson, Tadulala; Rooney, Jeffries; Watene, Obst, Korkidas, Solomona, MacGillivray, Betham. Substitutes used: March, Elima, Catic, Latu.

Castleford: Platt; A Fletcher, Shenton, McGoldrick, Dyer; Lupton, Brough; Sculthorpe, A Henderson, Nutley, Ward, Manu, R Fletcher. Substitutes used: Bird, Fa'aoso, Viane, Davis.

Referee: R Silverwood (Mirfield).

Whitehaven spark hope of reprieve

By Dave Hadfield

Whitehaven remain the principal hope of a back door reprieve from relegation for Castleford following their 38-10 victory over Rochdale Hornets in the National League One play-offs.

The Cumbrian club have already been told that they will not be promoted even if they win their Grand Final because they do not meet the top division's criteria, so Cas would survive in that case.

Haven were never in trouble at the Recreation Ground yesterday, leading by 26 points at half-time. They are now at home to Batley, surprise 23-22 winners at Leigh. The winners of that match will meet the losers of Hull Kingston Rovers against Widnes, both of whom are eligible for promotion, for a place in the Grand Final.