The Warrington Wolves named a strong squad to take on a Castleford Tigers side who knew that a win would guarantee them play-off rugby next weekend, and for whom a loss would mean an end to the coaching reign of Daryl Powell on a low note as they missed out on the end of season excitement.
With the Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR supporters willing the Warrington side a win, the away supporters knew that the home side would throw everything that they had at them to keep their season alive.
With Warrington having nothing but ‘form’ to play for with third place already secured, the bookies were backing the home side to record a narrow victory as they were giving the Wolves a four point start on the coupon in a game that could well have been a dress rehearsal for next week’s first play-off if it went the home sides’ way.
After some good Castleford pressure, it was the visitors who opened the scoring with Matty Ashton being on hand to take a Jake Mamo pass and canter over under the sticks from twenty metres out. Stefan Ratchford added the conversion for a 6-0 lead.
Two minutes later a barnstorming run from Chris Hill to the twenty where he found Mamo in support to sprint over under the uprights. Ratchford was again accurate with the boot and within nine minutes the Wolves were 12-0 ahead, the Tigers play-off hopes already in tatters.
Ratchford added a two-point penalty goal from forty metres out on twenty-three to extend the lead.
A freaky try gave the Wolves their third when a Widdop high kick took a cruel bounce away from the charging Niall Evalds and into the hands of an on-rushing Ashton to step past the Tigers full back and score under the sticks. Ratchford kicked a fourth goal of the night for 20-0.
On the hour mark Mamo scored an eighty metre try down the right wing as he picked up a Castleford kick to the corner and went in unopposed. The Tigers were stunned, their coach embarrassed, and their supporters silenced as Ratchford drilled his kick between the uprights.
Michael Shenton, in what looked like his last game for the Tigers, was heled from the field on thirty-eight.
It was a half which was totally dominated by the Warrington Wolves, and the side who needed the win to extend their season had put in one of their worst forty minutes of the season and left themselves an impossible hill to climb.
After a poor Paul McShane offload, a rampaging Rob Mulhern collect and run set up the Matty Ashton hat-trick try on forty-three with the full-back scoring from thirty metres out. Ratchford added the goal for 32-0, the Tigers season over.
The Tigers finally got over the whitewash on fifty-two when Peter Mata’utia took a tap pass from Thewlis to dove over from close range. Danny Richardson added the conversion for 6-32.
Two minutes later Mata’utia got a second, again a close-range effort as he bust between two Warrington tacklers to cross from ten metres out. Richardson was again accurate with the kick to reduce the arrears to twenty points.
On fifty-eight Josh Charnley was sin-binned for some afters in a tackle and on the next play the Tigers went in again, this time down the left wing with a flying Jordan Turner grounding by the corner flag. Richardson added the touchline conversion for 18-32, somehow Castleford had got themselves back into the game.
On sixty-three Grant Millington made the most of confusion in the Wolves defence as he collected a rebounded Gareth O’Brien cross-field kick to dove over. Richardson added the conversion for 24-32, the Wolves now hanging on with sixteen minutes left.
On sixty-four Mike Cooper was red carded for use of the shoulder in the tackle on Liam Watts and in doing so injuring his own player Chris Hill. The Wolves down to eleven men, at least for the next three minutes.
A high shot from Watts calmed the Warrington nerves as Ratchford kicked the penalty goal to extend the lead to ten points.
On seventy-eight Connor Wrench finally killed off any hopes of a Tigers miracle as he tip-toed through the Warrington defence to ground by the left upright. Ratchford added his seventh goal of the evening for 40-24 with just a few seconds left on the clock.
A tremendous second half fightback from the Castleford Tigers wasn’t enough for them to rescue their season as a twelve-man Warrington held on to the bitter end to see that their hosts ended the season out of the top six and Daryl Powell coached his final game for the Tigers in a loss to his 2022 employers. The Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR will now fight over fifth and sixth spot tomorrow evening, the losers of that game facing the Wolves in the play-offs next weekend.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Turner (T), Shenton, Mata’utia (2T), Olpherts, O’Brien, Richardson (4G), Griffin, McShane, Millington (T), Foster, Sene-Lefeo, Massey. Subs: Watts, Milner, Smith, Matagi.
Warrington Wolves: Ashton (3T), Charnley (SB on 58), Mamo (2T), Wrench (T), Thewlis, Williams, Widdop, Hill, Ratchford (7G), Cooper (SO on 64), Currie, Hughes, Philbin. Subs: Clark J, Mulhern, Longstaff, Austin.
Referee: Liam Moore.
Score Progression: 0-4, 0-6, 0-10, 0-12, 0-14, 0-18, 0-20, 0-24, 0-26 : HT : 0-30, 0-32, 4-32, 6-32, 10-32, 12-32, (SB), 16-32, 18-32, 22-32, 24-32, (SO), 24-34, 24-38, 24-40 : FT.