SL moments: The 2006 relegation battle

The 2006 relegation dogfight came down to the final match of the season between Castleford and Wakefield. 

With Catalan being given a two year grace period from relegation, their position at the bottom of the 12 clubs was insignificant. The English team directly above them would face the drop. 

Wakefield were odds on favourites to be that club with two rounds left to play. After their 34-12 round 26 loss to St Helens, they were three points adrift of Castleford and Harlequins, and seemingly heading for relegation.

However John Kear has been known to pull the rabbit out of the hat when it mattered, and he pulled off another trick that even the magician Dynamo couldn’t have performed.

On the penultimate round Wakefield shocked Bradford and posted a 20-12 victory away from home. Castleford had lost to Salford on the same evening, and the whole dynamic of the dogfight changed. The Wildcats were one point behind the Tigers going into the final round, with both side set to meet each other in the Battle of Belle Vue. 

Harlequins were mathematically safe after their 31-30 win at the Twickenham Stoop against Wigan. Quins inconsistency showed throughout the match, as they raced to a significantly early lead, only to have it clawed back. Mark McLinden’s drop goal just before half time proved not to be as insignificant as it may have first appeared. 

Catalan were condemned to finish bottom of the league, but their grace period was in its first of two seasons. The Dragons had won eight games by the end of the season, which was recognised as creditable to many. It remains the highest number of wins a last place club has achieved in the Super League era.

With the scene set 11,000 spectators crammed into Belle Vue on a dramatic Saturday night, Wakefield’s highest Super League attendance and their biggest for 31 years.

Castleford got two early scores on the board, and were nine points up after 26 minutes. Willie Manu and Adam Fletcher touched down for the Tigers, and Danny Brough added a complimentary drop goal.

However the game could have been tighter after Wakefield were disallowed a try when Kevin Henderson obstructed Fletcher who was in pursuit of Ben Jeffries. But Wakefield made their own luck when an attempted kick at the ball from Monty Betham fell into the hands of James Evans, who was also in space to stroll over.

Wakefield were given another slice of luck when referee Richard Silverwood appeared to miss David Solomona‘s knock on in the previous tackle. From the resulting play the ball, Jason Demetriou scored a crucial try.

Danny Nutley got the first try for the visitors eight minutes after half time, but Danny Brough’s kick down field found touch on the full by a matter of inches.

Terry Matterson’s side had ran out of luck, and Wakefield went onto take the lead which they were never going to lose. Evans scored his second, while Betham and Kevin Henderson all got tries in the second half to win the game 29-17 and send the Tigers back into National League One.

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