Warrington Wolves took full advantage of Castleford’s decision to field a weakened team to strengthen their bid for a top-two finish in the First Utility Super League.
Tigers coach Daryl Powell rested six members of his likely Challenge Cup final team and, although his makeshift line-up were far from disgraced, they could not match their opponents’ superior finishing as they succumbed to a 48-10 defeat.
The Wolves needed to win by 29 points to leapfrog Castleford into fourth place and they reached their target courtesy of Joel Monaghan’s 24th Super League try of the season seven minutes from the end.
With one eye on Wembley, Powell made nine changes to the side that won the semi-final against Widnes, giving a first start to full-back Ben Reynolds and debuts to young forwards Brad Day and Will Maher off the bench.
Warrington coach Tony Smith left out only scrum-half Richie Myler and prop Roy Asotasi from the team that performed so disappointingly against Leeds in the semi-final and they went some way to making amends.
Castleford actually dominated the opening quarter, forcing three goal-line drop-outs and repeated sets, without being able to supply the final touches to their promising build-up play.
The Wolves’ defence was up to the task and they struck twice on the counter-attack to open up a 12-0 lead.
Left centre Ryan Atkins got the opening try, taking advantage of a kind bounce after Reynolds was deceived by a kick from Gareth O’Brien, who then supported a long-range break by Michael Monaghan to score the second.
Right centre Chris Bridge crashed through some poor defence to score a third Warrington try on 22 minutes and kicked his third conversion before hobbling off with a leg injury.
At 18-0, the visitors were in danger of being blown away but they stuck valiantly to their task and pulled a try back on 26 minutes when left winger James Clare took Jamie Ellis’ long pass and produced a superb one-handed finish at the corner.
The Tigers almost scored again before half-time when second rower Frankie Mariano was put through a gap on halfway by Nathan Massey and held off the cover on a blazing sprint to the line, only to be held on his back in Rhys Evans’ last-ditch tackle.
However, there was no stopping Oliver Holmes six minutes into the second half when he took Ellis’ short pass to barge his way over despite the efforts of four defenders.
Liam Finn’s conversion cut the deficit to eight points but Warrington made the game safe with two further tries in a five-minute spell.
Evans took Simon Grix’s cut-out pass to cross at the corner for the first of his two tries and prop Anthony England charged onto Mick Higham’s short pass.
Stefan Ratchford added both conversions in the absence of Bridge to make it 30-10 and then used an overlap to cross for his side’s sixth try on 65 minutes.
As the visitors tired, Monaghan and Evans both went over in the last seven minutes as Warrington emphasised their superiority.