The dead-rubber to end all dead-rubbers as Wakefield Trinity and the Salford Red Devils did battle to see who would finish this most extraordinary of seasons in ninth place, and who would end it in tenth.
Salford needed a win to overcome the three-win deduction which they suffered earlier in the week and jump ahead of Trinity, while the Dreadnoughts knew that a win would secure them ninth but also that they couldn’t catch the Castleford Tigers in eighth. The season was effectively over, and the stage was set for a game between two sets of players who were already in an off-season mindset and who would be going out of their way to ensure that they didn’t pick up any injuries.
Both coaches named strong looking squads, but both also admitted to being down to the bare bones of their squads as injuries and coronavirus took their toll. A late change saw Dan Sarginson replaced with Niall Evalds for Salford after Sarginson picked up an injury in the warm-up.
Seventy seconds were all that stood between the first whistle and Kallum Watkins finding Krisnan Inu to spin out of the tackle and get the ball in the ground. Inu was unable to add the extras but it was a great start for Salford.
On nine it was a walk-in try for Niall Evalds, on his last outing for Salford, after Inu did all the work down the right wing before selflessly passing inside to Evalds to walk in. This time Inu added the conversion for a 10-0 lead.
Ben Jones-Bishop had a try ruled out by the video referee on eighteen and on twenty-two Ed Chamberlain made the most of a Wakefield dropped ball as he dribbled the ball forwards twice to towards the Trinity line before picking up and dotting down by the uprights. Inu added the conversion for a 16-0 lead.
On the half hour mark a great break by Rhys Lyne saw the Trinity centre go fifty metres before passing inside to Ryan Hampshire who completed a great seventy metre try, scoring twenty metres from the sticks but he was unable to convert his own try.
An Andy Ackers break gifted Tui Lolohea with the fourth Salford try, the Salford half-back supporting his hooker to take the inside pass and outpace Jones-Bishop to dive over. Inu converted in off the far upright for a 22-4 lead at the interval.
A sensational try from Kelepi Tanginoa on fifty got Wakefield back into the game when the big man beat Inu to a Brad Walker grubber kick to get a hand on the ball for the four pointer. Hampshire added the conversion for 10-22, Trinity two converted tries adrift.
Wakefield went in again on the hour after an Innes Senior break found space down the left wing and when the cover tackle came across, he found Hampshire in support to take the pass and cross. Hampshire was unable to add the conversion, Trinity still eight adrift. Wakefield were showing some of the fight which had been missing for most of the first half.
Lee Mossop was sin-binned for a trip on twenty-five, Salford down to twelve men for all but the last five minutes of the game.
Within a minute of the sin-binning, Tanginoa got his second with Walker again the provider as he put in a flat pass for the big forward to crash the Red Devils line and wrestle the ball to the ground. Hampshire added the conversion for Trinity to get within two points.
A disastrous error from Senior on seventy-one swung the momentum back to Salford. A grubber kick was fumbled by Senior and Tyrone McCarthy had the easiest task of getting his hand on the ball to score. Inu added the conversion to put the Red Devils eight points clear.
This was a far better game than we could have expected from two sides with nothing to play for except pride. Both came with the determination to give their fans a winning end to the season and went about it to the best of their abilities. Salford have lifted themselves into ninth place in the final table, despite being stripped of three wins while Wakefield end a frustrating season just above Hull KR.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds (T), Kear, Watkins, Chamberlain (T), Inu (T, 4G), Lolohea (T), Atkin, Mossop (SB on 65), Jones, Yates, Ormondroyd, Pauli, Flanagan. Subs: Ackers, Burke, McCarthy (T), Ikahihifo.
Wakefield Trinity: Hampshire (2T, 2G), Senior, Tupou, Lyne, Jones-Bishop, Bailey, Wood K, Kopczak, Bowes, Tanginoa (2T), Pitts, Batchelor, Arona. Subs: Walker B, Fifita, Battye, Green.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Half Time: 22-4.
Full Time: 28-20.
Venue: Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds.