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R27: Wildcats fight on
Relegation-haunted Wakefield Wildcats live to fight another day after pulling off a tense 20-12 victory at engage Super League champions Bradford Bulls on a night of high drama on both sides of the Pennines.
The battling Wildcats stunned the champions at the Grattan Stadium, Odsal, with a heroic, tough-tackling display to claim a third win from five matches under new coach John Kear.
Their fate will now be decided on the last weekend of the regular season when Wakefield will have home advantage in a straight shoot-out against local rivals Castleford Tigers, who lost 26-16 at Salford City Reds.
But Harlequins RL could still go down if next week?s match at Belle Vue ends in a draw and Harlequins lose both of their remaining games.
The Bulls led 6-0 after the first quarter but the Wildcats, knowing they simply could not afford a defeat, stormed back to take an 18-6 half-time lead with three clinically-finished tries.
Bradford opened the scoring after 17-year-old forward Sam Burgess had been denied a first engage Super League try by the video referee, who spotted a knock-on as the youngster forced his way to the line.
Wakefield failed to profit from the let-off as the Bulls launched their best attacking move of the half.
Centre Shontayne Hape made the initial burst and second rower Brad Meyers, playing his final League game at Odsal, linked to send full-back Michael Withers haring for the line.
Paul Deacon added the goal to make it 6-0 but Wakefield?s response was immediate.
Substitute forward Ned Catic re-gathered possession from the kick-off and, when the ball was worked out to the wing, Semi Tadulala jinked inside to cross for a try.
Rooney missed the conversion but added a penalty shortly afterwards to tie the scores after Bradford forward Brett Ferres was pulled up for a high tackle on second rower Duncan Macgillivray.
The Bulls were down to 12 men at that stage after captain Iestyn Harris had been sin-binned for strongly disputing referee Steve Ganson?s decision to penalise Withers for obstruction.
The visitors lost former Bradford centre Ryan Atkins with a leg injury but they edged in front eight minutes before half-time when Rooney landed a second penalty and they surged further ahead with two tries in the last five minutes of the half.
A break from the dangerous David Solomona took Wakefield deep into Bradford territory and Rooney?s long pass enabled full-back Colum Halpenny to tear through a gap in the home defence.
Rooney was again wide with the conversion attempt but he was back on the mark when Catic finished off a smart move by second rower Solomona, who caught the Bulls defence out with a touchline run from the blindside side of a ruck.
Wakefield increased their lead within four minutes of the re-start after the champions were once again punished for obstruction near their own line.
It was a decision that enraged the home supporters but delighted the 2,000 visiting fans as Rooney kicked his fourth goal to make it 20-6 and edge his side nearer safety.
Bradford, although guaranteed to finish fourth, were determined to defend their proud home record and they struck back on 48 minutes when Harris regained possession from Deacon?s high kick and sent the supporting Withers over for his second try.
Deacon?s second conversion cut the deficit to eight points and set up a dramatic last quarter.
A thrilling relieving run from behind his own line by winger Jason Demetriou illustrated Wakefield?s determination and they were given another helping hand when Bradford were reduced to 12 men for a second time.
Hooker Ian Henderson was shown the yellow card for failing to retreat 10 metres and the weakened Bulls were forced onto the defensive.
Wakefield ought to have made more of a clean break from Rooney but, like so many moves, it petered out thanks to a handling error.
Bradford Bulls: (6) 12. Tries: Withers 2. Goals: Deacon 2.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: (18) 20. Tries: Tadulala, Halpenny, Catic. Goals: Rooney 4.
Bradford Bulls: Withers, Vainikolo, Hape, Pryce, Bai, I. Harris, Deacon, Vagana, Newton, Lynch, McKenna, Meyers, Ferres. Replacements: Cook, Burgess, Henderson, B. Harris.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: Halpenny, Demetriou, Evans, Atkins, Tadulala, Rooney, Jeffries, Korkidas, Obst, Watene, MacGillivray, Solomona, Betham. Replacements: Catic, Latu, Henderson, March.
Referee: S Ganson (St Helens)