Wakefield survive the great drop

Salford City Reds 24 Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 32
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The Independent Online

Two minutes into injury time, David March touched down in front of the massed ranks of Wakefield supporters at the Willows and Trinity who could finally celebrate survival in Super League.

If there is any consolation for Huddersfield, who needed Wakefield to lose to give them a chance of staying up, it is that the Salford side, which finished with 10 men, could not have tried harder on their behalf in this extraordinary match.

As the hooter went, the Wakefield supporters who outnumbered the home fans came on to the pitch, some carrying a banner reading: "That's justice."

Their coach, John Harbin, was also in a mood to celebrate the great escape from a situation made so much more precarious by the controversial deduction of two points for breaching last year's salary gap, bringing his own supplies of beer to start the party in the press conference. "Some coaches are under pressure to win trophies," he said. "I was under pressure to keep people in work. I'm happier doing that for them and their families than I would be winning the Challenge Cup."

This was indeed a match played with the intensity of a final – an intensity that boiled over in four sendings off, two sin-binnings and a mass brawl.

Salford, showing far more passion than of late, led through Michael Hancock's try, before Gareth Ellis put Trinity in front. A close range effort from Neil Baynes gave Salford the advantage once more before Martin Pearson and Malcolm Alker were sent to the bin for their roles in a fight that involved most of the players on the pitch.

When Francis Maloney extended Salford's lead and news came through that Huddersfield were well on top against London, it looked bleak for Wakefield, but Willie Poaching scored a crucial try for them before half-time. Stuart Littler's 90-yard interception try made it a 10 point lead once more before Neil Law's sheer willpower took him over to keep Wakefield in touch.

Littler then became the first to be sent off by the referee, Russell Smith, for a trip on Pearson, followed by Bobbie Goulding, already on his way to the sinbin for deliberate offside when he clashed with Justin Brooker, who was also dismissed.

Law's second put Trinity level and after two goals from Pearson had given them a four point lead, Graham Holroyd became the third Salford man to be sent off, for tripping March.

The depleted Reds still had plenty of resilience and the result was not settled until March dived over. As for Harding, he is still not certain that there will not be moves to undermine the good work of his players and dump them from Super League. "I'm still not convinced it's over," he said. "But I'll have a drink tonight."

Salford: Arnold; Platt, Maloney, Littler, Hancock; Holroyd, Goulding; Driscoll, Alker, Baynes, Barton, Highton, Wainwright. Substitutes used: Marsh, Gorski, Stevens, Makin.

Wakefield: N Law; Sovatabua, Brooker, Ellis, Westwood; Pearson, Davis; O'Neill, D March, Watene, Field, Poching, Hodgson. Substitutes used: Jackson, Rauter, G Law, Price.

Referee: R Smith (Castelford).

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