CASTLEFORD TIGERS ended the year on a high with a 40-26 home win over Widnes Vikings which was memorable for a host of reasons.
Winger Denny Solomona scored his seventh hat-trick of the season – which includes one four-try haul – to set a new club record of 42 for the campaign.
His second try took him past the late St John Ellis’ mark of 40 touchdowns, which had stood since 1993-94.
Solomona’s tally of tries and hat-tricks are both new Super League records, but he had to share man of the match honours with Luke Dorn.
Making the final appearance of his career, Dorn led the team out and opened their account with his 182nd touchdown in Super League, extending his record as the competition’s leading overseas try scorer.
Matt Cook celebrated his first try of the season and the win lifted Tigers above Catalans Dragons into fifth spot on the final Super-8s table.
Widnes started and finished well, but Tigers dominated for most of the game.
The visitors took an early lead when Tom Gilmore’s kick was batted back by Hep Cahill and Connor Farrell touched down.
Lloyd White converted and it took a smart tackle by Andre Savelio, who pounced on Gil Dudson as he tried to sneak over from acting-half, to prevent the visitors going further ahead.
Dorn got Tigers off the mark on 17 minutes, swooping over off a one-two with Jake Webster after Oliver Holmes had also handled.
Tigers’ left-edge is their most lethal weapon. Just five minutes after Dorn’s try, Solomona went through the same channel.
Webster was again the provider, after he had received the ball from Luke Gale.
Solomona showed his defensive qualities seven minutes before the break, getting back to haul down Chris Dean following a wonderful break out of defence by Widnes winger Corey Thompson.
Paul McShane was sin-binned for a flop, but Tigers increased their lead two minutes before the break through Solomona’s record-breaking touchdown.
It came out of the blue, the winger scorching away unopposed – celebrating all the way en-route – after Gilmore kicked straight at him close to Tigers’ line.
A try by Thompson at the start of the second half cut Tigers’ lead to six points, but Gale sent Ben Crooks over and then provided a kick for Solomona’s hat-trick score.
Cook crossed off a pass by McShane who went over himself moments after Farrell had been sin-binned for holding down.
Gale’s sixth conversion made it 40-10, but Widnes finished with a flourish as Tigers eased off, Patrick Ah Van, Farrell and Thompson scoring consolation tries in the final five minutes and White adding two conversions.
Tigers received some silverware after the game when they were presented with the Yorkshire Regiment Super League Trophy, for having the best record from matches involving the county’s teams this season.
Boss Daryl Powell described fifth place on the table as a “phenomenal achievement” after such an injury-ravaged campaign, but insisted it is just the start.
He said: “If you look at the last three years, we’ve finished fourth, fifth and fifth.
“We are on the precipice of something special. This year has been unbelievably tough and the players have had to dig deep, but we are about more now.
“We have won five out of seven in the Super-8s, but we are going to be better next year.
“We are going to go after every team we play against.”
Widnes’ late try spree highlighted an area of concern for Powell.
He added: “We have got a lot of high-quality players who have bought into the way we play, but the key thing for us moving forward is we’ve got to defend better.
“If we do that we will be a force.”
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Flynn, Webster, Minikin, Solomona, Hampshire, Gale, Cook, McShane, Springer, O Holmes, Savelio, Milner. Subs: Maher, Chase, Crooks, McMeeken.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury, Thompson, Dean, Runciman, Ah Van, Mellor, Gilmore, J Chepelhow, White, Dudson, Whitley, Farrell, Cahill. Subs: T Chapelhow, Leuluai, Heremaia, Manuokafoa.
Referee: Jack Smith (Warrington).