CASTLEFORD TIGERS safely negotiated the final hurdle before their Challenge Cup semi-final showdown with Widnes Vikings, Justin Carney scoring an eight-minute hat-trick in a 64-18 demolition of London Broncos.
Tigers trailed twice in the opening quarter before Carney decided to grab the game by the throat, scoring on 25, 30 and 33 minutes as Cas went from 12-6 down to 22-12 ahead.
Carney didn’t see much ball in the second half and London’s defence muscled up on him when he did, otherwise he would surely have broken Tigers’ records for most tries in a game (five, by five different players) and four in a Super League match (Waine Pryce, Rangi Chase, Kirk Dixon and James Clare).
Even so, right-winger Kirk Dixon took advantage of the extra space to cross a couple of times and Tigers finished with a tally of 12 touchdowns, without really needing to find top gear.
The concern was a penalty against Carney for a dangerous tackle in the second half, which Tigers will hope the review panel takes a charitable view of.
London were competitive in the opening quarter, before falling apart. Olsi Krasniqi went over for the first try after nine minutes, off a pass by Josh Drinkwater, who also converted, but some quick thinking by Kirk Dixon woke Cas up on 14.
He defused a bomb in-goal, caught London out with a quick tap and supplied former Broncos stalwart Luke Dorn, who easily held off the defence on a 70-metre sprint to the line.
Marc Sneyd landed the first of his eight conversions, but London regained the lead soon afterwards when Erjon Dollapi came off the bench to go over on his first touch, Drinkwater again adding the extras.
Then Carney took over, though he only really had to work for the third of his quick-fire treble, the first two coming off kicks by Liam Finn and Sneyd.
In the set from the re-start following the second of those the winger did his impression of a 10-pin bowling ball, knocking the defensive skittles out of the way en-route to a spectacular score.
Right on the stroke of half-time Tigers struck again when Finn landed a 40-20 and in the resulting set Jamie Ellis, on as back-up hooker, caught the defence out with a quick dart from acting-half and fellow substitute Scott Wheeldon crossed.
Tigers added two more tries in the first 10 minutes of the second half, Michael Shenton and Garreth Carvell – his first for Cas – going over to make it 40-12.
Frankie Mariano became the third Castleford substitute to get over the whitewash, when he accepted Finn’s pass after a lovely counter-attack involving Dorn, Sneyd and Oliver Holmes.
Cas hit the half-century when London ganged up on their right to keep Carney out, but Finn kicked to the right to give Dixon a walk-in.
Ellis created Dixon’s second and Adam Milner finished off a full-length move from the re-start, before Mike McMeeken completed the scoring with a consolation try, converted by Drinkwater.
It was young referee Joe Cobb’s second Super League game and he did a good job. The 10 penalties were shared.
Castleford Tigers: Dorn, Dixon, Gibson, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Jewitt, Milner, Huby,Holmes, Webster, Massey. Subs (all used) Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Carvell.
London: Farrar, Atkins, Minns, Mataitonga, Solomona, Keyes, Drinkwater, Slyney, Moore, Krasniqi, McMeeken, Vea, Cook. Subs (all used) Wicks, Griffin, Wallace, Dollapi.
Referee: Joe Cobb (Leigh).