CASTLEFORD TIGERS’ impressive run came to a shuddering halt yesterday when they were thrashed 46-16 at Widnes Vikings.
Cas went into the game on a high following successive, impressive victories over Warrington Wolves and Hull KR and having won four of their previous five, but they looked very ordinary against opponents who began the afternoon second from bottom in First Utility Super League.
Most of the damage was done in the second quarter as Widnes scored four tries, all through very poor defence, to take a commanding 28-6 interval advantage.
Cas were slightly more competitive in the second period, but still a distant second-best and the final tally of eight tries to three tells its own story.
Team changes didn’t help Tigers. Cas were without influential No 7 Luke Gale, who was not risked on Widnes’ artificial pitch due to a “niggle he has been carrying for several weeks.
Liam Finn – who kicked two goals – started at scrum-half. James Clare took over on the left-wing from injured leading try scorer Justin Carney and Steve Crossley replaced Frankie Mariano in the 17.
Without Gale, Tigers lacked organisation and direction in attack, though he would have struggled to create much from so little possession and territory.
Defensively, Cas were weak, especially on the edges. All the home side’s five first half tries were scored out wide, three of them on Tigers’ left.
The try Cameron Phelps scored mid-way through the second was a beauty from Widnes’ point of view.
But will also give Tigers’ coaching staff nightmares when they look at how Rhys Hanbury was able to ghost almost the length of the field without a serious attempt being made to stop him.
Widnes went ahead with a simple try after four minutes, Kevin Brown and Hanbury working the blindside to Patrick Ah Van, who juggled before striding over the line.
Jack Owens landed a terrific touchline conversion, but the lead lasted only seven minutes, Cas scoring the first time they got good field position.
Andy Lynch offloaded smartly close to Widnes’ line and some excellent footwork carried Ben Roberts over the line.
Ashley Gibson was tackled into touch just short and then Scott Moore’s poor pass in front of the Widnes posts snuffed out a promising Cas attack.
That was a turning point as the next time Cas had the ball in defence field position, they were 22-6 adrift.
At the end of the next set Lloyd White landed a 40-20 kick, the bounce deceiving Jordan Tansey and following that Hanbury went over after Chris Dean had been held up.
Owens matched his earlier effort with a goal from the opposite touchline and he was lining up another shot – which he also landed – from the same spot moments later.
Lee Jewitt, just on, was penalised for a high shot from the re-start, the kick took Widnes close to Cas’ line and Hanbury picked out Owens with a long pass, the winger diving over at the corner.
On 31 minutes Tigers’ left-side defence was broken again, Stefan Marsh crashing over after Aaron Heremaia and Tom Gilmore had handled.
And on the stroke of half-time Cas conceded a drop-out from which Ah Van coasted round Gibson for the hosts’ fifth try, off Hanbury’s pass.
It was six five minutes into the second half, after Cas conceded two quick penalties and then acting-half Heremaia’s pass put Brown through a huge gap.
Tigers finally showed what they can do when they get some ball as Adam Milner burst down the middle and though Roberts was hauled down, Oliver Holmes managed to plunge over from close range for an unconverted try.
On 59 minutes Hanbury caught a kick five metres from his own line, with the whole defence in front of him.
He brushed off tackler after tackler on an incredible run before dabbing a grubber kick through, from close to the Cas line, which Cameron Phelps touched down.
Owens’ goal made it 40-10, but Cas stemmed the tide when Roberts’ clever pass put Michael Shenton over on 63.
Fittingly, Hanbury had the last laugh, going over for the final try, from Brown’s pass, with four minutes left. Widnes winger Owens also rounded off a good day and he landed his seventh goal to complete the scoring.
Widnes Vikings: Hanbury, Owens, Marsh, Phelps, Ah Van, Brown, Gilmore, O’Carroll, White, Dudson, Dean, Galea, Leuluai. Subs (all used) Heremaia, Manuokafoa, Gerrard, Isa.
Castleford Tigers: Tansey, Clare, Shenton, Channing, Gibson, Roberts, Finn, Lynch, Moore, Wheeldon, Holmes, Millington, Massey. Subs (all used) Milner, Jewitt, Boyle, Crossley.
Referee: James Child (Batley).