Peter Smith’s verdict: Masterclass from Peter Mata’utia boosts Castleford Tigers’ play-off push
BY THE standard of the games which followed, Castleford Tigers’ 29-18 win over Salford Red Devils at the Dacia Magic Weekend was quite a tame affair – but it was just as important.
Like Catalans Dragons’ win over St Helens which clinched the Betfred Super League leaders’ shield and Leeds Rhinos’ equally dramatic defeat of Hull, the game ended with a drop goal.
But Jordan Turner’s late effort for Tigers simply put icing on the cake of a scrappy, but well-earned success which kept them sixth in the table and on track for the play-offs.
Castleford had to battle hard for victory over the team second from bottom in the table, but in the circumstances, it was a good effort by coach Daryl Powell’s men.
They went into the game at St James’ Park, in Newcastle, without their top-three half-backs – Danny Richardson (concussion) and Gareth O’Brien (neck) having joined back injury victim Jake Trueman on the sidelines.
But up stepped Peter Mata’utia, who moved to scrum-half to partner another specialist centre, the versatile Turner.
Mata’utia, who will follow Powell to Warrington Wolves next season, had an outstanding game, bagging 12 points from four conversions and the final try, which settled matters after Tigers had clung on to a four-point lead for 15 tense minutes.
He also snatched the ball from Ata Hingano to snuff out a Salford attack when the game was in the balance midway through the second period.
“He scored a crucial try and the ball steal was a crucial defensive play,” Powell said of Mata’utia’s contribution.
“He is a tough defender and he carries the ball well.
“If you can play him at half-back – and you know he is great at full-back and centre – then he’s a pretty important player to have in your squad, as I think Jordan Turner is, with the positions he has been able to play in this year.”
Paul McShane, who had missed last Monday’s defeat by Wigan Warriors with an abdominal injury, scored the first try, from acting-half and provided the pass for Daniel Smith to grab Tigers’ second.
McShane suffered an ankle problem in the act of touching down, did not feature in the second half and is set to undergo a scan early this week.
Adam Milner came off the bench to replace him and made a good job of filling in, sending Turner in for the first try after the break.
Salford responded after each of Tigers’ opening two tries with touchdowns of their own, through Ken Sio and Joe Burgess, but Oliver Holmes went over three minutes before the interval to give Castleford a 16-12 lead and Turner crossed 10 minutes afterwards, opening a 10-point gap.
Salford hit back through a neat score by Hingano and Krisnan Inu’s third conversion, but – after some desperate defence on Tigers’ line – Mata’utia went in for a fine solo effort and Turner booted a drop goal 10 seconds from time.
The game was exciting, though littered with errors and penalties – Cas failing to find touch with a penalty and knocking-on from a drop-out – but at this stage of the season, results matter more than performances.
This week’s game at Hull KR is massive for Tigers, but Powell is happy they are the masters of their own destiny. He said of Saturday’s win: “It’s so tight, at this moment in time it looks like a crucial two points. I’ve said to the boys, it might not be pretty for us for the rest of the year, because of what’s happened to us, but it can be exactly what we showed today – gritty and tough and we find a way to win games.
“We’ve got two left and we are in a great position.
“Players are hanging tough and finding a way to win games when we are under a bit of pressure.”
Castleford Tigers: Evalds, Olpherts, Blair, Shenton, Clare,Turner, Mata’utia, Griffin, McShane, Smith, Holmes, Sene-Lefao, Massey. Subs: Milner, Foster, Hepi, Matagi.
Salford Red Devils: Escare, Sio, Inu, Sarginson, Burgess, Lolohea, Hingano, Johnson, Atkin, Burke, Roberts, Robson, Brown. Subs: Luckley, Costello, Lannon, Addy.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).
Attendance: 35,104 (day one total).
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