Rugby League: Rovers broken by power play

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The Independent Online
Wakefield Trinity 24

Featherstone Rovers 22

THE OLD adage about a good big'un and good little'un held true in the inaugural First Division Grand Final, but only just. The village people of Featherstone, pounded for most of the evening by the big lads from the city, came so close to winning a compelling match and with it the right to apply for Super League membership.

Four points ahead with seven minutes to play, they thought they had it in their grasp but Asa Amone's tackle knocked the ball loose and his pick up and run set off Karl Pratt for what would have been the clinching try. One half of the McAlpine stadium celebrated until they realised that the referee had seen a knock-on. From the scrum, a reprieved Trinity piled on the pressure that finally won it, Wayne McDonald slipping the ball out for Frances Stephenson to score the tying try and Garen Casey to land the winning goal.

Wakefield had set out physically to dominate their opponents from the outset; not so much down the middle, but on the flanks where their size advantage was even more marked. Twice in the first five minutes they overwhelmed the right side of Featherstone's defence to take an 8-0 lead. After 90 seconds it took Featherstone all their might to stop Josh Bostock, who must surely be the biggest winger in the game, and Roy Southernwood burrowed over from the play-the-ball.

Adam Hughes, on loan from Leeds, is a similar colossus and he drove the ball close to the Rovers line to produce a second try. The outstanding Wakefield captain, Matt Fuller, went to dummy half and Bostock came charging through to touch down. Wakefield were in trouble which would have been deeper if Casey had been able to land either of the two wide-angled conversions.

They struggled to get into the game and only did so because of a piece of good fortune. Ty Fallins hoisted a kick on the last tackle that fell well short but took two kind bounces to finish up in the arms of Danny Baker as he went over for a try converted by Richard Chapman.

Despite that, Wakefield continued to dominate proceedings. They could have had a couple more tries, Adam Hughes knocking on with the Featherstone defence stretched and Pratt getting back to clear Casey's dangerous kick, before they scored again.

Once more, the handling skills of Casey and the raw power of Bostock were to the fore. Casey, hemmed in on the last tackle, managed to fling his pass blind, the wingman seizing upon it to go over for his second try.

Featherstone would have been relieved to be only 12-6 in arrears at half- time. On the balance of play, it could have been far worse and would have been if Fuller had managed to hold and intercept from Fallins' pass immediately before the break. Half-time came at the right time for Featherstone, who came out refreshed and hit Wakefield with two tries in four minutes. Fine handling by Shaun Irwin and Chapman produced the first for Chico Jackson and Fallins' break set up the second.

This pass to the player in support seemed too low, but Steve Collins picked it up well and went under the posts with another converted try to put Rovers six points clear.

Back came Trinity, Roger Kenworthy's long-pass finding Casey after a period of intense pressure, but Chapman's jinking run through midfield put Featherstone back on the attack. The mood seemed to have lost its impetus, but quick hands took the ball to the right wing for Carl Hall to score in the corner. The small-time club seemed destined to have its day, but the drama of the last few minutes denied them.

Wakefield Trinity: Holland; Gray, A Hughes, Law, Bostock; Casey, Kenworthy; Stephenson, Southernwood, Lord, I Hughes, Whakarau, Fuller.

Substitutes used: Richardson, Fisher, McDonald.

Featherstone Rovers: Collins; Hall, Irwin, Baker, Pratt; Coventry, Fallins; Jackson, Chapman, Dickens, Price, Lowe, Slater. Substitutes used: Handley, Amone, Clarkson.

Referee: N Oddy (Huddersfield).