Castleford and Warrington brought the curtain down on the first round of Super League in an empty and windy Emerald Headingley Stadium, with both teams knowing their coach was starting his final season in charge.
Castleford were on just their second set when Jake Trueman put a teasing kick into the Wolves’ in-goal, which Josh Charnley twice failed to bat clear and Oliver Holmes charged through to ground the ball just shy of the dead-ball line. Gareth O’Brien converted to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead.
Toby King levelled hit back within two minutes, beating a retreating Niall Evalds to a high kick and diving to put the ball down in the corner. A missed conversion left the Tigers still leading 6-4, but the Wolves had put their marker down for a competitive game.
Tom Linehan put the ball over the line next on 10 minutes for Warrington, but was called back for a knock-on at the play-the-ball.
Sustained Warrington pressure threatened the Castleford try line twice more in the next five minutes, but the Tigers almost responded with a repeat of their opening try, but this time neither Oliver Holmes nor Michael Shenton could score before the ball went dead.
However the Tigers suffered a blow when Gareth O’Brien was brought off for a head injury assessment and took no further part in the game after a collision with Chris Hill’s knee in broken play following a scintillating break from Peter Mata’utia.
Tigers’ pressure paid off after the half-hour mark when Jake Trueman took the ball to the Wire line and passed back to Evalds whose footwork beat the defence and the Castleford full-back opened his competitive try account with his new club for a 10-4 lead.
With O’Brien off the field, Mata’utia took the kicking duty but couldn’t convert.
Veteran winger Jordon Turner took the lead out to 10 points in the final minute, crossing in the corner on Warrington’s right edge, after receiving a cut-out pass from Evalds. Again, the conversion was missed.
And there the score stayed until half time, despite some frenetic play that failed to produce any real chances.
It took 10 minutes before the scoreboard ticked over in the second half. Jason Clarke broke the line and released near namesake Darryl Clark to score against his former club. Again, goal kicking proved to be difficult in the Headingley wind and Stefan Ratchford failed to convert.
With 50 minutes gone, the scores stood at 14-8.
The Tigers hit back with a second try for Turner in the corner, converted by McShane, whose break after plucking a loose ball out of the air from Mata’utia had set up the move. They now led 20-8.
With the game-time counting down in the final quarter of the match, play became scrappier from both teams and while Warrington put pressure on the Castleford line with some promising moves, particularly by the ever dangerous Clark, they could not make it pay.
So, with 10 minutes left, McShane took the margin out to at least three scores with a drop goal for a 21-8 lead.
And the importance of that was shown when Ben Currie broke the Castleford line and Blake Austin crossed to give Warrington a brief burst of hope – though that wasn’t improved by Widdop’s missed conversion attempt.
And that’s the way it ended, leaving Warrington to try and get their season under way against Leigh next, while Castleford will face fierce rivals Leeds with a win under their belt.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds (T), Turner (2T), Shenton, Mata’utia,Olpherts, Trueman, O’Brien (G), Millington, McShane (G), Griffin, Holmes (T), Blair, Massey Subs: Watts, Milner, O’Neill, D Smith.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford, Charnley, King (T), Wrench, Linehan, Austin (T), Widdop, Hill, Walker, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Philbin. Subs: J Clarke, D Clark (T), Mulhern, Ashton.
Half Time: 14-4
Full Time: 21-12
Referee: Chris Kendall
Score progression: 4-0, 6-0, 6-4, 10-4, 14-4. HT. 14-8, 18-8, 20-8, 21-8, 21-12. FT.