Rugby League: Trinity's biggest battle begins

Wakefield Trinity 24 Featherstone Rovers 22
UNLIKELY AS it sounds after such a pulsating contest, Wakefield must now face even more implacable opponents than Featherstone.

Trinity won a dramatic inaugural First Division Grand Final at Huddersfield on Saturday with a late try and goal from Francis Stephenson and Garen Casey, but only after Rovers had scared them with a wonderful second-half comeback.

But the real battle starts now, with Wakefield needing to convince an independent panel of assessors that they are worth a place in Super League.

"I really think it's out of our hands," said their coach, Andy Kelly, as he relished the confirmation that the league leaders were the best side in a highly competitive division.

"We can't do any more than we've done this season. Now it's up to the wise people to decide whether we're worthy. If the door's open, we'll go through it."

Wakefield's problem is that their Belle Vue ground is barely good enough for First Division rugby, let alone Super League. Among the alternative suggestions is that they should play at Barnsley's Oakwell, but whether such a temporary solution will appeal to the arbiters is a moot point.

The other idea already abroad is that Wakefield and Featherstone should join forces, playing, at least for the forseeable future, at Rovers' tidy and perfectly adequate ground at Post Office Road.

The Featherstone coach, Steve Simms, who still does not know whether he will be retained by the club next season, is one who believes that the scheme has merit. "There's a lot of tradition involved, but the game's got to go forward sooner or later," he said. "If that means clubs joining together, so be it."

If there was objective sense in those sentiments, they sat awkwardly immediately after a game which had seen both clubs show such fierce pride in their individual identities.

Featherstone, who barely scraped into the play-offs, were were badly outmuscled by a huge Trinity team, but they played superbly to hold them to 12-6 at half-time and then take the lead with tries from Chico Jackson and Steve Collins at the start of the second half.

Wakefield equalised through Casey, but Featherstone thought they had won it when Carl Hall's try was followed by a stunning break from Asa Amone and a touchdown by Karl Pratt.

But the touch-judge had spotted a knock-on, not only depriving Rovers of the try but also giving Wakefield an excellent attacking position from the scrum. Stephenson's plunge and Casey's boot decided a match which totally vindicated the new play-off system.

"We're not complaining," said Simms. "But if that try is awarded we're 10 points ahead and on a high. Once it was disallowed, they were on a high."

Wakefield Trinity: Holland; Gray, Law, A Hughes, 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).