Castleford Tigers 34 Widnes 20: Solomona points the way with Castleford hat-trick
Solomona, an off-season recruit from London Broncos, scored a brace on his debut in the opening game of the season, but had a long spell on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury in the Super League round three defeat at St Helens.
He returned in May at home to Huddersfield Giants, which was Tigers’ most recent defeat and didn’t score that evening, but has not stopped since.
Castleford have won their last five matches and Solomona has scored 11 tries in that run, with four against Wakefield, one at Hull KR, two against Leeds and one at home to St Helens before yesterday’s treble.
“He certainly scores tries,” said Powell of his right-winger. “There’s a lot of good work going on on the inside of him to give him the opportunities, but he’s turning out to be a good player for us and his finishing has been outstanding since he has come back from injury.”
Solomona scored Castleford’s first two tries yesterday, both from passes by Luke Dorn, who returned to the side following a three-month injury lay-off.
Castleford have made a habit of starting quickly and then letting the opposition back into the game. That was the case again as they led 18-0 – for the third time in four matches – before allowing Widnes back into the contest.
Solomona crossed after just five minutes and Luke Gale kicked the first of his five conversions.
The winger added another seven minutes later and Castleford were well in command when they went further in front on 25.
Ben Roberts, who had been standing-in at full-back, dropped to the bench to make way for Dorn’s return and came on midway through the first half, at hooker.
He almost got over the line with his first touch and, after he had been pulled down just short, Jake Webster picked up and squeezed over.
Moments later Jack Owens touched down from Tom Gilmore’s pass for the visitors’ first try. There seemed to be an obstruction in the build-up and Webster was sin-binned for complaining to referee Joe Cobb.
Chris Clarkson, the forward on a season-long loan from Leeds, added a second try when Castleford were down to 12 men, but Matt Cook went over for the hosts just before the interval off a pass by Gale, whose conversion made it 24-10.
Justin Carney, Castleford’s other winger, collected Gale’s kick to increase the lead at the start of the second half.
The first half was played in bright sunshine, but Widnes handled the conditions the better when a thunderstorm broke over the ground after the interval.
Tom Gilmore touched down after his own chip rebounded off a defender, Owens kicking a second conversion and when Macgraff Leuluai’s try cut the gap to 10 points, Castleford looked shaky.
Widnes, though, could not make another breakthrough and Webster’s outstanding pass sent Solomona over late on to complete his hat-trick and make the points safe.
Powell said: “It got a little bit uncomfortable. We got a sin-bin and then the rain changed the whole context of the game, but I always thought we had them just far enough away.
“It became a tough game to play in with the conditions. I thought we did some really good things in the first half, but in the second half both teams lost their way a little bit and there were a lot of errors.”
The Vikings are three points off the top eight and head coach Denis Betts believes they have to win all three games. “A maximum six points might give us a chance but it’ll be tough,” he said.
Castleford: Dorn, Solomona, Webster, Shenton, Carney, Finn, Gale, Lynch, Milner, Millington, O. Holmes, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Roberts, Cook, Moors, Springer.
Widnes: Hanbury, Flynn, Dean, Craven, Owens, Gilmore, Mellor, Manuokafoa, Heremaia, Gerrard, Clarkson, Galea, Cahill. Substitutes: O’Carroll, Leuluai, Dudson, Isa.
Referee: J Cobb (RFL).