CASTLEFORD TIGERS climbed above Warrington Wolves into third place on the Super 8s table after a 28-18 victory over their Wembley-bound visitors last night.
It was a year to the day after Castleford claimed the 2017 league leaders’ shield by beating Wakefield Trinity at Wheldon Road.
Tigers will not repeat that achievement this season, but a return to Old Trafford and the Grand Final could well be on the cards.
Last night, despite missing a host of players including influential forwards Adam Milner and Jesse Sene-Lefao, Castleford were too good for an error-ridden Warrington side whose minds appeared to be elsewhere for all but a 10-minute spell after half-time.
The final margin, though, was less convincing than it might have been.
Castleford were in cruise control when they led 16-0 at the interval, but they dropped off, allowing Warrington to score two tries in three minutes which slashed the deficit to just four points.
Order was restored midway through the half when Tigers added their fourth try and another soon afterwards made the points safe, despite a late consolation.
Winger James Clare marked his 100th career appearance with the opening try after eight minutes.
It was Peter Mata’utia’s home debut following his recent move from Leigh and the full-back provided a long pass which gave Clare a walk-in after Jake Trueman, Grant Millington and Jamie Ellis had also handled.
Ellis was off target with his conversion attempt from the touchline, but booted a straight-forward penalty soon afterwards when Nathan Massey was tackled high by Mike Cooper.
Tyrone Roberts made a good tackle to prevent Greg Eden scoring, but Castleford doubled their lead 12 minutes before the interval.
Paul McShane was an influential figure throughout and clearly relished his battle with opposite number Daryl Clark, Warrington’s former Castleford hooker.
McShane dabbed a grubber kick over the line on the last tackle and Junior Moors, the big front-rower who had just come off the bench, reacted quickly to run through and touch down.
Castleford’s props all impressed with Liam Watts driving Warrington back, particularly in the early stages and substitute Mitch Clark also showing up well.
Castleford landed what seemed to be a killer blow on the final play of the half. Kevin Brown lobbed a pass towards Warrington’s right-flank, which was intercepted by Eden. He dived over one-handed at the corner and referee Gareth Hewer’s decision of try was backed up by video official Ben Thaler.
Warrington got points on the board five minutes into the second period when Kevin Brown chipped a kick over the line and Stefan Ratchford gathered to score. Three minutes later Castleford’s line was breached again, Bryson Goodwin going through a big gap from Brown’s pass and Ratchford adding a second goal which cut the gap to just four points.
Eden missed an opportunity to add his second try when he put a foot in touch and spilled the ball over the line.
But the winger did better on the hour. McShane’s kick again created the opportunity, Eden making a good catch before easily evading Ben Pomeroy for a crucial try which Ellis improved from the touchline.
Seven minutes after that Castleford made the game safe with high-quality try. Millington, McShane and Trueman handled as the ball was moved from right to left, then captain Michael Shenton brought it back the other way before popping out a pass to Mike McMeeken who stormed through a huge gap.
The goal made it 28-12, and Ratchford’s late try from a Brown kick, which Dec Patton converted, was nothing more than a consolation for Warrington.
Warrington rested Josh Charnley, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Ben Westwood ahead of the Cup final. Mitch Brown was hurt in a tackle by Jake Webster and left the field on a stretcher.
Tyrone Roberts suffered a head injury and Daryl Clark and Goodwin were limping at times in the second half.
Castleford Tigers: Mata’utia, Clare, Webster, Shenton, Eden, Ellis, Trueman, Watts, McShane, Millington, Wardle, McMeeken, Massey. Subs Moors, Holmes, Clark, Turner.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Lineham, T King, Goodwin, M Brown, K Brown, Roberts, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Thompson, Hughes, G King. Subs Philbin, Akauola, Patton, Pomeroy.
Referee: G Hewer (Whitehaven).