Wakefield head coach Mark Applegarth accepted responsibility for his side’s relegation from the Betfred Super League after their dramatic 20-19 golden point defeat at Leigh.
Applegarth said he was “hurt” by his side’s failure to extend their unlikely survival battle into the final week of the season but said they would face up to the prospect of Championship rugby next year.
He said: “I’m hurt, it stings, and as head coach the responsibility is on my shoulders.
“It sunk in as soon as I saw that drop goal go over. All I can do is apologise to our fans but I can tell them that we will be back.
“I’d like to think most of the fans can’t question any of the lads’ efforts. Skill, execution and composure is probably what has let us down, but definitely not effort.”
Wakefield’s survival bid looked bleak after Tom Briscoe opened the scoring for Leigh with just four minutes on the clock but two opportunist tries from Lee Kershaw early in the second half pulled them back on level terms.
Gareth O’Brien’s late drop goal looked to have won it for Leigh before Luke Gale kicked Wakefield into the extra period with just 19 seconds left on the clock – only for O’Brien to convert the decisive effort of a frantic extra period.
Applegarth was left to reflect on a season in which a stirring recovery could not hide the fact that 14 straight defeats at the start of the season proved too much to overcome.
“Ultimately the league table doesn’t lie and we weren’t good enough,” added Applegarth.
“We’ve got some tough decisions to make and we’ve got some improvements to make. We’ve got to be honest with each other and look at why this has happened.
“My job is to make sure we bounce straight back up. They (Leigh) flirted with it over the last few years and they’ve nailed it, so there’s a blueprint to follow right there.
“Mark my words, we will be back in Super League, and hopefully at the first time of asking.”
Leigh head coach Adrian Lam admitted his side were far from their best but praised their accomplishment at sealing a top six place with one week of the regular season still to go.
“I think we just looked a bit less tired after last week,” admitted Lam.
“There was a lot of stop-start to the game that kept them in it, and they got two tries against the run of play from dropped balls, so I was a bit nervous towards the end.
“But we just find a way to win this year in those situations, which has been so impressive with this bunch of boys and so many players out.
“I think some other clubs may have rolled over tonight but they just got bigger and stronger as the game went on.
“We’ve now got to try to build some confidence and belief off the back of that, and make sure we take it on.”