AT THE age of 33, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e has had to bide his time for a Super League debut but he certainly made the most of it last night to help Castleford Tigers to a famous and remarkable victory.
However, instead of solving the club’s problematic full-back slot as intended after the previous week’s arrival from Halifax, the ex-Sheffield Eagles star somehow found himself playing stand-off.
What a masterstroke. From there, the Samoa international produced two moments of dazzling skill that had become so common in the Championship.
Crucially, his own try and then a wonderful assist soon after, weaving through to supply Oli Holmes in the 66th minute, proved the difference as Daryl Powell’s depleted side stunned high-flying Warrington Wolves.
Already bereft of three half-backs to injury, the visitors also lost hooker Paul McShane and full-back Greg Eden on the day of the game due to injuries.
It meant a rejig and few people gave them a chance against opponents who had destroyed Wigan Warriors 23-0 in the Challenge Cup, but how it all paid off.
Teenager Calum Turner came in at full-back for only his second appearance, his first coming with a try-scoring debut off the bench at Hull early last month, but he instantly made an impression.
The 19-year-old scored one try, helped create another and kicked six goals before limping off late on, ‘QLT’ finally ending up in the No 1 role as Castleford dug deep to hold off the hosts.
Turner’s only real error saw him drop a high kick that led to Josh Charnley’s second try in the 71st minute leaving Warrington trailing just 32-30. However, Adam Milner made sure with a late penalty as Tigers moved level with Warrington in third.
Castleford had raced into a 12-0 lead inside just seven minutes to immediately offer hope that they would be far from just cannon fodder.
Their opening effort came in unlikely style, England second-row Mike McMeeken grubbering out of dummy-half, nutmegging Stefan Ratchford and pouncing on the loose ball. It will have to be checked with the man from Basingstoke but there’s a firm belief it is the first time the 24-year-old has ever been spotted kicking a rugby ball in Super League.
Turner slotted the first of his goals and was over himself straight after.
Milner – who took on even more responsibility with McShane missing – made a searing midfield break to set up position before the excellent Jake Trueman’s dabbed grubber bounced up onto the crossbar and rebounded perfectly to the onrushing youngster.
Nevertheless, that early lead – if not their enthusiasm – was quickly extinguished as Warrington found their feet to score three tries in nine minutes to restore the expected order. Charnley palmed down Kevin Brown’s crossfield kick for Ryan Atkins to supply Tyrone Roberts before Ratchford picked up a loose pass and got on the outside of Alex Foster to sashay over.
Harvey Livett could not convert either but it was Powell left with his head in his hands after Warrington’s bizarre third try
Chris Hill had been hauled down just short of the goalline but played the ball with Joe Wardle lying prone behind him.
It rolled and time seemed to stand still before Daryl Clark simply dived over to score as everyone else hesitated, Castleford probably expecting a penalty to be awarded against them.
Clark, the livewire hooker again showing the sort of form that saw him win Man of Steel with hometown Castleford in 2014, has rarely scored a simpler try.
Livett did improve to give Warrington a 14-12 lead but the visitors bombed a certain try soon after. Little had been seen of Laulu-Togaga’e in attack but, with possibly his first touch of the ball in the 25th minute, he sent a lovely delayed pass to put Foster charging through a gaping hole.
However, inexplicably, one of Castleford’s most reliable players dropped the ball with the line right in front.
Instead, at the other end, Clark dummied clear and fended away Matt Cook to set up Sitaleki Akauola and Livett converted to seemingly put Warrington in control at 20-12.
Nevertheless, Turner showed his class with a lovely flick pass that saw Michael Shenton send Jy Hitchcox over in the 35th minute, curling the conversion over before levelling with a penalty in the final play of the half.
They then started the second period brightly but saw their hard work undone by some ill-discipline; Milner was late with a shove on Roberts after the Warrington scrum-half had passed the ball on.
That sparked a melee and ended up with the Castleford hooker being yellow carded.
To some, it might have seemed a harsh punishment but it seems standard practice in the sport nowadays so it is hoped players will soon learn.
While down to 12 men, Castleford went behind to Charnley’s first try.
But then QLT finally arrived to finish off a wonderful team try to turn the contest again.
Warrington: Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, Atkins, Charnley, K. Brown, Roberts, Hill, Clark, Cooper, Livett, Hughes, Westwood. Substitutes: Murdoch-Masila, Patton, Philbin, Akauola.
Castleford: Turner, Minikin, Foster, Shenton, Hitchcox, Laulu-Togaga’e, Trueman, Millington, Milner, Cook, Wardle, McMeeken, Sene-Lefao. Substitutes: Holmes, Massey, Clark, Maher.
Referee: Ben Thaler (RFL).