Warrington Wolves 38 Castleford Tigers 14 - Depleted Tigers undone by Gareth Widdop hat-trick
DEPLETED Castleford Tigers put in a spirited performance but were eventually undone as hat-trick man Gareth Widdop inspired Warrington Wolves to victory.
For an hour, Daryl Powell’s side - missing ten first-teamers - were competitive and trailed just 16-10 approaching the final quarter of this Betfred Super League contest.
With Jake Trueman’s kicking game and Paul McShane’s promptings, they managed to force five goalline drop-outs against opponents they will face again in the Challenge Cup semi-finals in a fortnight’s time.
Crucially, though, the West Yorkshire club only managed to convert one of them into a try and Warrington - with England stand-off Widdop superb - eventually finished strongly in Steve Price’s 100th game in charge.
Powell, of course, will replace the Australian at Wolves at the end of the season but it is only the here and now he is concerned with.
Tigers were already missing a raft of players when they then saw Pete Mata’utia - the centre linked with Warrington for 2022 - pull up in the warm-up.
That meant a drastic reshuffle for Powell with second-row Jesse Sene-Lefao forced into action as an emergency centre.
England second-row Oli Holmes and full-back Niall Evalds - both named in the 21-man squad - were also missing from the side that suffered a late loss against Hull KR on Monday.
Nevertheless, there were some excellent performances, not least from Suaia Matagi, the prop on a season-long loan from Huddersfield Giants but only just making his debut after suffering an injury on the eve of the campaign.
The New Zealander brought plenty of punch off the bench and added some valuable strength to a Castleford pack missing regular props Grant Millington and Liam Watts as well as seeing another - George Griffin - pushed into the second-row.
Just 16-10 behind at the break, the visitors rued not capitalising on their chance at the start of the second period.
Trueman made one wonderful break which the excellent Stefan Ratchford shut down but then came three drop-outs in quick succession which all resulted in nothing.
Warrington thought they had extended their lead when Josh Charnley got over in the 58th minute but it was pulled back for a forward pass from Racthford.
Still, it was Ratchford, the versatile England international operating at full-back, who did finally see Castleford off, making the break for Widdop’s second in the 60th minute.
From there, it was only going to go one way, Blake Austin making a break for Widdop to seal his treble just three minutes later.
When McShane went off for an HIA, Ben Currie slipped Toby King over for his second try of the afternoon and, following Widdop’s 40/20, ex-Castleford hooker Daryl Clark added a trademark score.
There was still time for Jordan Turner to score his second try for Tigers - and seventh in Super League this season - but, by then, it was not even a consolation.
Given the circumstances, his side did well to only be 16-10 down at the interval.
Predictably, Warrington - looking to hit back after Monday’s loss against Huddersfield Giants - dominated field position although Powell’s side were gifted some easy gains.
Josh Thewlis, the young Wolves winger, twice spilled Danny Richardson restart kicks.
From the first such error, Castleford forced a drop-out which Austin embarrassingly failed to kick 10m, resulting in a penalty and the visitors’ second try.
They shifted the ball smartly to the left via Trueman, James Clare and Michael Shenton for Turner to dive in at the corner for the makeshift winger’s first effort.
That 18th-minute score saw the game levelled at 10-10, Trueman having given Castleford the lead inside just three minutes, supporting McShane when the hooker spotted some lazy marker defence to break clear up the middle of the field from halfway.
Warrington responded when Ratchford ushered Charnley over and, unsurprisingly, his side regularly attacked Castleford’s right edge where Sene-Lefao was in the unfamiliar position of centre.
Sene-Lefao had coughed up the ball in the restart set after Trueman’s try and when his side made another error in their own half, it was England international Ratchford who once more made the incisive pass for King to again expose that problem area.
Ratchford improved and, though Turner replied, the hosts went ahead once more when Widdop scored a solo try, weaving between Nathan Massey and Turner in the 23rd minute.
Ratchford added a penalty after Griffin’s dangerous tackle on Robbie Mulhern but Castleford delivered an awful set when Thewlis dropped for a second time.
One wayward Richardson pass saw them lose 15m ground and then his kick was easily defused to concede a seven-tackle set.
With opportunities so few and far between, Castleford could ill-afford such profligacy, as it so painfully proved by the end.
Warrington Wolves: Ratchford; Thewlis, Mamo, King, Charnley; Austin, Widdop; Hill, D Clark, Cooper, Hughes, Currie, Philbin. Substitutes: J Clark, Mulhern, Davis, Butler.
Castleford Tigers: Clare; Olpherts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Turner; Trueman, Richardson; Massey, McShane, Smith, Griffin, Martin, Milner. Substitutes: Hepi, Matagi, Peachey, Bienek.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield)