WEMBLEY-BOUND Castleford Tigers will go into the Tetley’s Challenge Cup final a week on Saturday in confident mood after yesterday’s 28-6 semi-final demolition of Widnes Vikings, coach Daryl Powell said.
Tigers dominated a one-sided clash to secure a meeting with Leeds Rhinos at the national stadium on Saturday, August 23. And team boss Daryl Powell, pictured, enthused: “I thought we were very good, really composed.”
Powell was delighted with the way his side handled adversity – including a late arrival due to traffic delays and the loss to injury of prop Craig Huby – and he said: “We started superbly. There was a real focus about the boys and obviously scoring early gives you a great opportunity to settle down.
“Defensively it was a really, really good effort against a team that can cause you a lot of trouble. I was really pleased with the 80 minutes. It was a quality 80 minutes from the players I thought.”
Questions had been raised about Tigers’ alleged lack of experience in vital matches, but Powell said: “We have got big-game players. Marc Sneyd is a young player who has not had a lot of big-game experience, but I think he is a big-game player.
“Liam Finn came of age as a big-game player and he was superb. And we’ve got people like Shenny (captain Michael Shenton) who has been around and experienced it all.
“We stood up and a lot of people showed they can handle the bigger stage, which is crucial.”
Shenton has played Test rugby and appeared in a Super League Grand Final, but described yesterday as a career highlight: “It was one of the best. It is one of the best environments I have been in. Daryl and the staff and the boys handled it so well. There are lessons we’ve learned from this season. In some of the games we haven’t been great, but we’ve always been in the mix. Today we put all those bits together and we came up with a big-game performance. We just showed that mentality to react to whatever goes against us. We’ve shown that this year, but today it was great.”
Tigers’ victory was marred by the injury to Huby, who suffered a dislocated elbow in the first half and is likely to miss the final. Powell said: “It’s obviously disappointing for us and for him. We had a few boys missing with Millo (Grant Millington) who has been superb as well, plus Justin (Carney) and Weller (Hauraki).
“You can sense and feel and see that the players do so much for each other and they are prepared to do anything. I thought that showed. We were four players down – all pretty important players – and they got the job done.”
Meanwhile, Powell described scenes at the end of yesterday’s game – when a group of Widnes fans invaded the pitch to confront Cas players and taunt Tigers fans – as “ridiculous”.
One woman was hurt when an advertising hoarding collapsed and Castleford’s Tigerman mascot was attacked.