YET ANOTHER win for Super League leaders Castleford Tigers but one that came at a cost following a worrying injury to the prolific Greg Eden.
The in-form winger started his evening as he has done so many this season by scoring tries.
However, it was in the process of securing his second of the game – and 37th of the season – in the 24th minute, that the England hopeful suffered damage to his shoulder that left him in hospital last night.
As has so often been the case this campaign, Eden spectacularly leapt over the line to squeeze in at the corner off one of Michael Shenton’s perfectly-timed passes.
However, this time, the 26-year-old landed awkwardly and could be seen immediately wincing after making contact with the ground.
He was helped off, his jersey used as a sling to protect his arm, and later headed to hospital with concerns about damage to his AC joint.
Fortunately, head coach Daryl Powell had a like-for-like replacement with veteran former Australia winger Joel Monaghan on the bench.
He duly profited with two tries himself in the second-half as Castleford quickly extended their slender 18-10 interval lead to make sure of an 11th straight league win that sees them remain eight points clear at the top.
However, given Eden’s stellar form, any long-term damage will certainly pose some problems as they push on in their title bid.
Furthermore, the former Hull KR winger’s hopes of eclipsing Denny Solomona’s Super League season record of 40 tries could also be in doubt – he has 34 currently – as well as his bid to win a place in England’s World Cup squad if it is a serious injury.
The victory saw Castleford gain some sort of revenge after Salford had beaten them back in March, one of only three defeats in 22 Super League games this term.
Castleford hooker Paul McShane showed remarkable courage, too, to play after the death this week of his cousin Evan Hawksworth.
There was a minute’s applause beforehand for the youngster who tragically passed after suffering a head injury playing for Stanley Rangers Under-14s,
Eden scored his first with much more ease than that second, taking Luke Gale’s pass inside just four minutes but it did not immediately signal a points avalanche from the hosts.
It was Eden, in fact, who spilled a high kick soon after to gift Salford the chance to cross themselves, Gareth O’Brien coming into the line and slipping over.
After McShane scooted close, Eden came close again – Castleford regularly attacked down his left side in the opening period – but this time Salford covered well.
Likewise, when McShane produced a lovely 40/20 kick, Shenton spilled under heavy pressure as he looked for his winger once more and then the England centre passed into touch trying to force another try.
However, third-placed Salford’s Todd Carney had got the merest of touches on the ball when swiping at it so Castleford gained the scrum.
From there, a more direct Benny Roberts made a mockery of the visitors’ defence, the stand-off shrugging off Michael Dobson, then beating Josh Jones before swatting aside Dobson again and O’Brien to reach the line from 20m out.
Salford always posed a threat, though, especially when Robert Lui – the Australian stand-off surprisingly starting on the bench – came on midway through the first period.
Zak Hardaker showed great composure to deny Niall Evalds when the winger broke clear and, though Gale extended Castleford’s lead with a 30 minute penalty, Ian Watson’s side did respond soon after.
Lama Tasi slipped a late offload out of a three-man tackle for Lui to expose the space, leaving Alex Foster and Gale in his tracks before sending ex-Hull KR centre Kris Welham over, Dobson converting for 18-10.
Jy Hitchcox made a timely intervention at the start of the second period to deny Jake Bibby a try and that proved crucial as, soon after, Monaghan was over with Shenton’s help.
Shenton then made a searing break to send in Hardaker although a brawl erupted in back play after Ben Murdoch-Masila cleaned out Gale with a late shot after the pass had gone.
The Man of Steel contender was fortunate not to be yellow carded but his indiscretion did not deter Gale who duly produced a 40/20 to pin Salford back further.
Admittedly, Jake Bibby did cross in the 57th minute and it seemed a comeback could be on when Evalds scrambled over but that effort was ruled out by the video referee.
The excellent Shenton supplied Monaghan with his second before Gale slotted a penalty, his seventh goal of the night, to finish things off, former Castleford second-row Weller Hauraki sin-binned late on for a late tackle on Grant Millington.
Castleford Tigers: Hardaker; Hitchcox, Minikin, Shenton, Eden; Roberts, Gale; Millington, McShane, Sene-Lefao, Foster, McMeeken, Massey. Substitutes: Lynch, Springer, Monaghan, Larroyer.
Salford Red Devils: O’Brien; Bibby, Welham, Jones, Evalds; Carney, Dobson; Griffin, Tomkins, Murray, Murdoch-Masila, Lannon, Hauraki. Substitutes: Lui, Walne, Tasi, Krasniqi.
Referee: P Benthan (Warrington).