Castleford Tigers 29 Salford Red Devils 18: Tense win keeps Cas' Super League top-six hopes alive
Castleford Tigers opened the Dacia Magic Weekend with a hard-fought and deserved 29-18 win over Salford Red Devils which keeps them on track for the Betfred Super League play-offs.
It was an exciting, if poor-quality, game, but for Tigers the result was more important than the performance.
Man of Steel Paul McShane returned from a one-game absence with an abdominal injury and, despite clearly not being fully fit, had a big influence on Tigers’ 16-12 half-time lead, scoring the opening try and providing a pass out of acting-half for their second.
He did not feature in the second half, after injuring an ankle, but two tries in 12 minutes either side of the break proved crucial, though the result was in the balance until Castleford’s fifth try, eight minutes from time.
Tigers, without any of their three top half-backs, went ahead after nine minutes when McShane barged through from acting-half and Peter Mata’utia - the eventual man of the match - converted.
The lead lasted just five minutes, until Tui Lolohea ran across the line and turned the ball back to Ken Sio and he stepped through a defence a few metres out for a try which Krisnan Inu improved.
Cas were back in front almost immediately through Daniel Smith, who spun through a big gap from McShane’s pass.
The we-score, you-score pattern continued as Salford grabbed their second equaliser, Joe Burgess going over off Oliver Roberts’ pass.
Roberts hadn’t been due to start, but stepped up off the bench when Harvey Livett limped out of Salford’s warm-up. Matty Costello was drafted in among the substitutes.
Both teams’ second try was converted and Tigers had a huge escape when Sio dropped Ata Hingano’s pass just short of the line moments after Burgess had scored.
It looked like the sides would go in at the break all square, but Tigers went on to grab the next try, just three minutes before the interval, Oliver Holmes opting to run on the last and proving too strong for Salford’s goal line defence, though the conversion attempt was missed.
Tigers dominated the early stages of the second half and increased their lead 10 minutes in when, yet again, Salford’s inability to defend their line was exposed, this time by Jordan Turner who went over from Milner’s pass.
Mata’utia’s third goal opened a 10-point gap, but Salford got back into the game with 23 minutes left when, after a spell of heavy pressure, neat footwork from Higano carried him over the line and Inu added the extras.
Tigers survived some nervous moments after that before sealing the win with seven minutes left when Mata’utia capped a strong performance by running through the defence from 10 metres out, moments after Holmes had been held and then tagging in his fourth goal.
Turner completed the scoring with a drop goal 10 seconds from time.