LEAKY defence offset an excellent attacking display as Castleford Tigers were out-gunned by Warrington Wolves .
The 42-26 defeat was harsh on Super League’s leading try scorer Denny Solomona, who took his tally in the competition to 28.
The former London Broncos flier scored a hat-trick in the first half and added a fourth late on. It was Solomona’s first four-try haul this year, but he has also scored three hat-tricks and touched down twice in a game seven times.
The winger, who also has two Challenge Cup tries to his name this season, could have set the platform for an important win as his third touchdown gave Castleford an 18-16 interval lead, but they were undone in the third quarter.
Warrington scored 20 unanswered points in a blistering 12-minute spell soon after half-time to take the game away from Tigers, though the visitors were flattered by their winning margin.
They scored seven tries to Castleford’s six, but Luke Gale had a rare off day with the boot and managed only one conversion.
Speaking afterwards, Castleford coach Daryl Powell credited his team for their efforts in the opening 40, but admitted they were not good enough after that.
“I thought we looked okay at times and our attacking play was good,” Powell reflected.
“We isolated them where we thought we could isolate them and got points on the back of that, but there were defensive lapses that have haunted us too much this season.
“You can’ t have to score 40-odd points to beat a team like Warrington, it’s very difficult to do.”
Castleford’s injury list also had a bearing, Powell felt. He said: “Look at the respective teams, out of our one-13 [squad numbers], we had seven missing and they had their one-13 out there.
“We knew it was going to be tough, but I thought we had a team out there that could have won that game.
“But you can’t drop the ball consistently in good field position and expect to beat the top-four teams.
“We are still talking about the same lesson we wanted to learn last week.
“We were okay for half a game, but there was a period in the second half when they blew us away.”
That spell apart, there was little between the teams and Castleford showed impressive resilience and counter-attacking ability to lead at half-time.
The advantage changed hands four times in the opening period after Castleford second-row forward Frankie Mariano, starting for the first time this year, barged over for the opening try inside three minutes.
Warrington were ahead soon afterwards following two tries by pacy centre Rhys Evans. Ben Currie’s pass set up his opener and then he raced almost the full length of the field after intercepting from Gale.
At that stage Castleford were struggling to deal with Warrington’s strength up the middle and speed out wide, but the home team weathered some heavy pressure and hit back to score three of the next four tries.
Solomona’s first two touchdowns came off pin-point passes by Luke Dorn, who was making his 250th appearance in Super League; both times after he had been supplied by Gale.
The third was a dazzling long-distance effort after he gathered Chris Sandow’s kick on his own line, moments after Stefan Ratchford had sliced through for a well-taken try following a Castleford drop-out.
Brad Dwyer dummied over from close range to edge Warrington back in front soon after half-time, but the game’s turning point came on 53 minutes when Mariano had a touchdown disallowed because of an obstruction.
Sandow kicked a penalty goal in the resulting set and from the restart broke through the line to create a try for Currie.
Warrington struck again moments later through Toby King, with a try created by the former Castleford pairing of Daryl Clark and Joe Westerman.
Sandow converted all three tries and Gidley booted the extras – to go with two first half conversions – when Clark went over on the hour, moments after Ryan Hampshire crossed from a pass by Junior Moors which referee Chris Kendall ruled was forward.
That ended the game as a contest, but Castleford stemmed the tide and ran in late consolation scores through Solomona and Ben Crooks, from kicks by Paul McShane and Rangi Chase.
It was Chase’s first game in Castleford colours since 2013, following spells with Salford and Leigh. He was introduced off the substitutes’ bench mid-way through the first half and Powell said: “I thought he went okay. He did some decent things, but it was tough for him in his first game back, with new combinations.”
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Hampshire, Crooks, Minikin, Solomona, McShane, Gale, Tickle, Milner, Patrick, O Holmes, Mariano, Moors. Substitutes: Millington, Chase, Cook, Springer.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Russell, Evans, Atkins, Lineham, Gidley, Sandow, Hill, Clark, Sims, Currie, Hughes, Westerman. Substitutes: T King, Dwyer, Westwood, Bailey.
Referee: C Kendall (Huddersfield).