Castleford Tigers 24 Warrington Wolves 40: Fightback falls short as Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR secure play-off spots
Castleford Tigers' season - and Daryl Powell’s reign as coach - ended in bitter disappointment tonight when a 40-24 home defeat by Warrington Wolves cost them a place in the play-offs.
A win would have sealed sixth spot, but instead Tigers had to settle for seventh, behind Hull KR and Leeds Rhinos who meet on Friday.
It was a particularly sad end to the playing career of Tigers captain Michael Shenton who suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first half.
But Castleford did bow out with heads held high as a remarkable fightback either side of the hour mark turned what looked like being a rout into a thriller, the hosts rallying from 32-0 down to just eight points adrift with 15 minutes remaining.
Warrington’s players formed a guard of honour as Shenton and long-serving import Grant Millington walked out on to the Jungle pitch for the final time, but that was as far as their charity went in the first half.
The visitors looked like they didn’t fancy a rematch with Tigers next week, which would have been the outcome if Cas had won. They were 12-0 ahead before Castleford knew what had hit them and at 26-0 it seemed the game was effectively over at half-time.
Another try made it 32-0 and Castleford were heading for an embarrassing drubbing, but Warrington - who had been excellent up to that stage - fell apart as their defence and discipline disintegrated.
Having looked like being nilled, Tigers ran in four tries between the 53rd and 63rd minutes and Warrington were reduced to 11 players for a spell with Josh Charnley in the sin-bin and Mike Cooper having been sent off.
Cas had a chance to cut the gap further, but Derrell Olpherts’ couldn’t take Peter Mata’utia’s pass and Warrington scored the final game’s final eight points.
One consolation for Tigers was the performance from Warrington centre Jake Mamo, who will join them next year. He scored two tries and created another.
Mamo’s pass sent full-back Matty Ashton racing over for the opener and he supported Chris Hill’s break to score himself in the next set.
Early in the second quarter Stefan Ratchford potted a 40-metre penalty goal and then Gareth Widdop hoofed a kick downfield, the bounce deceived Niall Evalds and Ashton was on the spot to gather and cross.
On 31 minutes, Danny Richardson didn’t pick up from his own kick, after it had bounced off Jordan Turner; Mamo did and showed the defence a clean pair of heels on a sprint over the full length of the field.
Turner did well to win the ball back from the kick-off after Warrington’s fourth try and in that set Ashton knocked Gareth O’Brien’s kick dead before Mata’utia could get the ball down, video official Chris Kendall backing referee Liam More’s original ‘no try’ decision.
Warrington ran in a fifth try, off another Castleford mistake, just three minutes into the second period and Ratchford’s sixth goal made it 32-0 and, it seemed, game over.
The hosts lost the ball in midfield, ex-Leeds prop Robbie Mulhern picked up and rumbled into Castleford territory and Ashton was on his shoulder to complete an outstanding hat-trick.
Mata’utia - who will join Warrington next year - stepped through for Castleford’s first two tries, both off passes by Evalds and then, after Charnley had been yellow carded following a dangerous tackle, Turner dived in for the third.
With 17 minutes left, O’Brien kicked towards the posts, the ball bounced off George Williams and Millington was on hand to make the catch and touchdown for a converted try which made it 32-24.
Warrington’s heads had completely gone at that stage and a ridiculous shoulder charge by Mike Cooper on Liam Watts was punished by a red card which left them down to 11 men on 65 minutes.
Warrington, though, regained control following Olpherts’ missed chance.
They managed to calm things a little when Ratchford landed a penalty following a high tackle by Watts on Ashton and Tigers never looked like getting back into the game after that, Connor Wrench’s try in the final minute - which Widdop converted - wrapping up Cas’ campaign.
Alex Foster and Jesse Sene-Lefao, who had a strong game, made their last appearance for the club, but last night wasn’t the end of rugby league at the Jungle this season.
England Knights will play Jamaica there in Jordan Turner’s testimonial game on Friday, October 15.
England’s second string side replace Greece, who had been due to face Jamaica that night in a warm-up game for the World Cup, which has been postponed until next year.
England’s men and women will take on France in a double-header, in Perpignan, on Saturday, October 23.
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Turner, Richardson, O’Brien, Griffin, McShane, Millington, Foster, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Subs Watts, Milner, Smith, Matagi.
Warrington Wolves: Ashton, Thewlis, Mamo, Wrench, Charnley, Widdop, Williams, Hill, Ratchford, Cooper, Currie, Hughes, Philbin. Subs Austin, J Clark, Mulhern, Longstaff.
Referee: Liam Moore (Wigan).
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