A SECOND-RATE display took the wind out of Castleford Tigers’ sails and condemned them to a 46-16 defeat at Widnes Vikings.
Castleford had won four of their previous five games and were in buoyant mood following successive impressive victories over Warrington Wolves and Hull KR.
But they were second-best in every department to an enthusiastic Widnes team who, Castleford coach Daryl Powell admitted “wanted it more”.
The opening quarter at Halton Stadium was tight, but once Widnes stepped up a gear Castleford fell away alarmingly.
The visitors had little territory or possession for the final hour and their defence, particularly on the edges, was broken on a regular basis as Widnes stand-off Kevin Brown dominated the game.
A poor pass by Scott Moore in front of Widnes’s posts mid-way through the opening period was the turning point.
It was 6-6 at that stage, Ben Roberts having stepped through the Widnes defence from Andy Lynch’s outstanding offload to cancel out an early score for Patrick Ah Van.
Castleford looked in position to take control after Roberts’s try, which was converted by Liam Finn and they went close through Ashley Gibson, who was tackled into touch close to the line.
Moore then gave the ball away and that was the last real sight Castleford had of the Widnes goal line before the interval, by which time they trailed 28-6.
Lloyd White landed a 40-20 kick at the end of the set following Moore’s error and outstanding full-back Rhys Hanbury went in for a try at the corner after the scrum.
The same player’s pass then created a touchdown for Jack Owens, who landed four conversions in the first half, all from wide out.
Castleford were without leading try scorer Justin Carney, who suffered a dislocated elbow in the previous game against Hull KR and Widnes relentlessly attacked down Castleford’s left, at the recalled James Clare.
Castleford also missed influential half-back Luke Gale, who has been arguably their top performer so far this season. He was not risked due to a hamstring “niggle”.
Stefan Marsh was next to find a way through, on 31 minutes, despite having a posse of defenders to get past when he received the ball close to the line, then a minute before half-time Castleford conceded a drop out, this time Widnes targeted the visitors’ right and Ah Van coasted round Gibson for his second try.
Castleford were more competitive for spells in the second half, but there was no way back in the game once Brown had coasted through a huge gap from Aaron Heremaia’s pass to extend the hosts’ lead to 34-6 five minutes after the resumption.
A break by Adam Milner set up a try from close-range for Castleford forward Oliver Holmes, but their defence was run ragged on the hour when Hanbury fielded a high kick near his own line, brushed off tackler after tackler on a weaving dash deep into the visitors’ territory and then grubber-kicked through for Cameron Phelps to touch down.
Roberts put Michael Shenton over for a consolation score, improved by Finn, but Hanbury capped a fine game by scoring the final try, with Owens adding a seventh conversion from eight attempts to complete a miserable afternoon for Castleford.
“I thought we were really disappointing, right from the off,” coach Powell reflected afterwards.
“We came up against a team who clearly wanted to win the game more than we did.
“They have had a tough Easter and we’ve had a reasonably good one, but in terms of energy, application, desire and will to win, we were second-best across the board.
“Kevin Brown was superb for Widnes and across the board we lacked composure and intensity in our game.
“I could put it down to every single aspect of performance – I thought we got beat at everything.”
Powell refused to make an issue of his team’s injury list, which also included forward Frankie Mariano after he rolled an ankle in training two days before the game.
“They have been playing really well,” Powell said of his latest casualties. “We were down to our last 17.
“We were a bit skinny, but that’s no excuse. We have got good players in there, they just didn’t perform.”
Meanwhile, Castleford are this week expected to confirm the signing of six-time Grand Final-winning prop-forward Ryan Bailey.
The 31-year-old joined Hull KR from Leeds Rhinos last autumn, but was released last month after just one substitute appearance.
He is understood to have agreed a contract with Castleford until the end of this season.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury, Owens, Marsh, Phelps, Ah Van, Brown, Gilmore, O’Carroll, White, Dudson, Dean, Galea, Leuluai. Substitutes: Heremaia, Manuokafoa, Gerrard, Isa.
Castleford Tigers: Tansey, Clare, Shenton, Channing, Gibson, Roberts, Finn, Lynch, Moore, Wheeldon, Holmes, Millington, Massey. Substitutes: Milner, Jewitt, Boyle, Crossley.
Referee: J Child (Batley).